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Sony slashes outlook, Sharp cuts jobs

Ominous signs for both of the Japanese rivals

Image Credit: Bloomberg
Sharp Corp. advertisements at an electronics store in Tokyo. Sharp, the television maker that has shed 60 per cent of its valuethis year, said it will cut 5,000 jobs after widening its annual loss forecast to $3.2 billion as TV demand slumped.
Gulf News

Tokyo: Sony Corp slashed its forecast for 2012/13 operating profit and lowered its sales expectations for key products including its handheld PSP and PS Vita devices as new boss Kazuo Hirai battles to revive the fortunes of the electronics giant.

Sony said April-June operating profit fell a much steeper-than-expected 77 per cent to 6.28 billion yen (Dh294.9 million) compared with a year earlier, blaming a strong yen and weak economies. Analysts had pencilled in a 36 per cent fall.

Rival Sharp Corp announced a 94 billion yen operating loss for the June quarter and plans its first job cuts in more than 60 years as Japan’s electronics industry scrambles to keep up with foreign competitors.

Sony shares hit a 32-year low in July on waning investor confidence it will be able to close the gap with the likes of Apple Inc, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Microsoft Corp.

“I think they’re in a pretty difficult position,” said Yuuki Sakurai, CEO of Fukoku Capital Management, the asset management unit of Japan’s Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance.

“If they don’t clearly show what is going to change under the new management I think the market will crush the stock again.”

In the latest sign of that struggle, Sony cut some projections for product sales for the year to March 2013.

The firm said it expected to shift 15.5 million TVs, down from a May projection of 17.5 million. It projected PSP and PS Vita handheld device sales of 12 million, down from 16 million, but maintained a forecast of 16 million sales for the PlayStation games console.

Sony hacked its 2012-13 operating profit forecast back to 130 billion yen from a previous forecast of 180 billion yen, moving more into line with market thinking. The consensus forecast of 18 analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters is for annual operating profit of 139 billion yen.

Taking the helm at Sony in April, Hirai vowed to revive the fortunes of the maker of the Walkman music player after years of competition from foreign rivals overturned its dominance in consumer electronics. The steady slide in Sony shares has left the Japanese firm with a market capitalisation of $12.4 billion, about a 15th of the size of Samsung.

After Sony returned a record net loss of 455 billion yen for the last fiscal year to March 31, Hirai promised 10,000 job cuts and big cost reductions in the TV unit that has produced losses amounting to about $12 billion in the past decade.

It took an 11.3 billion yen restructuring charge in the June quarter. In April, Hirai projected total restructuring charges of some 75 billion yen for 2012/13.

Hirai now faces the added challenge of steering his limping corporation through a euro zone debt crisis that is denting global demand for consumer electronics and eroding the profitability of Sony products.

The corporation said the U.S. economy was also sluggish and that growth in the so-called BRICS -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- had been slower than expected.


Like other Japanese exporters, including Nissan Motor Corp , Sony cited the strength of the yen as a factor weighing on its results. The currency has become a safe-haven for many investors as debt concerns undermine confidence in both the euro and the dollar.

The evaporating value of the euro hurts all Japanese companies that sell their goods and services in Europe, but Sony is more sensitive to yen swings against the common currency than its local peers.

Sony’s European sales account for a fifth of all revenue compared with a tenth at both Panasonic Corp and Sharp.

A one-yen gain in the exchange rate against the euro cuts 6 billion yen off of Sony’s operating profit. For Panasonic, a similar change would cut only 2.5 billion yen, and for Sharp, no more than 500 million yen.

The average against the dollar during the first quarter was 80.1 yen with the euro at 102.9 yen. The euro since has eroded in value to its lowest in more than a decade to around 95 yen.

Sony said it was now assuming a yen rate of 100 per euro in its foreign exchange projections for the year, against a May view that the rate would be around 105 yen.

It kept to a dollar/yen assumption of 80 yen.