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Japanese CE Makers Show Financial Progress

NEW YORK – The fiscal first-quarter reports for four major Japanese CE suppliers — Panasonic, Sony, Sharp and Toshiba — showed some progress to increase profitability, and maybe even sales, as the new year began.

For the quarter, ended June 30, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new monetary policies for the yen have helped the bottom lines of these companies.

Panasonic reported that net income rose to 107.7 billion yen, from 12.8 billion yen the prior year, mainly on a one-time gain of 79.8 billion yen from pension plan changes incurred as other income.

Consolidated group sales for the first quarter increased 1 percent to 1,824.5 billion yen.

In its AVC networks segment, its CE business, Panasonic said sales decreased 10 percent to 360.5 billion yen from a year ago. Sales of TVs and mobile phones “decreased significantly” due to weak demand and the elimination of unprofitable models. The segment loss was 16.7 billion, almost unchanged from a year ago.

Sony returned to profitability corporately, the TV business posted a profit in the quarter, and its management and board rejected a plan by stockholder Daniel Loeb of the Third Point hedge fund to spin off its entertainment properties.

Sony net income was 3.5 billion yen ($35 million) compared with the prior year’s loss of 24.6 billion yen. Sales and operating revenue rose 13 percent to 1,712.7 billion yen ($17.3 billion) year on year, Sony reported.

In television, sales increased 18.2 percent year on year to 185.6 billion yen ($1.874 billion), and operating income was 5.2 billion yen ($53 million) compared with a year-earlier loss of 6.6 billion yen. The improvement was primarily due to improved product mix in LCD TVs and cost reductions, partially offset by a significant decrease in unit sales of LCD TVs year on year, Sony said.

In the entire home entertainment and sound segment, sales were up 9.3 percent to 275.2 billion yen ($2.78 billion) vs. last year, with an operating income of 3.4 billion yen compared with last year’s 10 billion yen loss.

Sharp Electronics reported its sales rose 32.6 percent to 607.9 billion yen. Operating income was 3 billion yen, compared with the prior year’s operating loss of 94.1 billion yen, and the net loss was 17.9 billion yen, down from the 138.4 billion yen loss in the prior year.

In its digital information equipment segment, sales were up 18.5 percent to 158.9 billion yen compared with the prior year. While “sales in the Americas and Europe were sluggish” for LCD TVs, sales were improved in Japan, China and emerging countries,” the company noted.

Toshiba’s digital products segment reported lower sales and an operating loss in the quarter, while corporately its net sales and net income were up.

Sales for the segment were down 1 percent year on year to 334.5 billion yen. The operating loss was 16.3 billion yen, 13 billion more than the prior year’s fiscal first quarter.

Toshiba said, “Even though the visual products business, which includes LCD TVs, is on path for recovery in Japan, it also recorded a decrease on slumping sales in the United States and Europe.”

In its PC business sales dropped “on reduced demand, reflecting a shift in demand to smartphones and tablets,” the company said.