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Sony CE Annual Sales Flat

Tokyo —Sony’s CE sales remained essentially flat during the company’s fiscal year, ended March 31, coming in at $46.9 billion, down less than 1 percent from the $47.6 billion reported for the previous fiscal 12 months.

Sony reported a continuing shift toward flat-panel televisions and a corresponding decline in CRT-television sales during the year. There was ongoing demand for digital cameras and LCD rear-projection TVs. LCD types saw increased unit sales, particularly in the United States.

However, Sony reported a 12-month operating loss of $321 million for its CE segment, up from a $64.2 million loss the previous year, due mainly to a continued deterioration in the cost of sales ratio associated with a decline in unit selling prices. Although the company enjoyed a decrease in restructuring charges during the year, operating income was hit hard by a decrease in sales of CRT televisions and portable audio, as well as by a decline in unit selling prices of camcorders.

For the fourth quarter, CE segment sales increased 2.2 percent, reaching $11 billion, up from $10.8 billion in the same three months a year earlier. CE business operating results for the fourth quarter — just as for the 12 months — also took it on the chin, reaching a loss of $929 million, which, however, was down from a loss of $1.2 billion, registered during the fourth quarter the prior year.

Sony’s game segment continued to show negative results during the fiscal year, with unit sales of PlayStation2 declining in the United States, even with strategic price reductions. Overall software sales increased, boosted by record PS2 software unit sales. Game segment sales in the 12 months dropped 6.5 percent, to $6.8 billion, from a year-on-year $7.4 billion. The segment’s operating income declined 36.1 percent to $404 million from $638 million.

Game segment 12-month results were significantly reduced, even with a much brighter fourth quarter. In the last three months of its fiscal year, Sony’s game segment enjoyed a 76.2 percent increase in sales, hitting $2.1 billion, up from a year-ago $1.2 billion. The game segment recorded operating income for the fourth quarter, reaching $14 million, compared with a $65 million loss in the same three months the prior year.

Television sales for the 12 months rose 3.8 percent to $9 billion from $8.8 billion year-on-year. Video sales jumped 9.2 percent in the period, to $9.8 billion from $9 billion, while audio sales registered a sales decline for the year, down 16.2 percent to $5.3 billion from $6.4 billion.

However, due to declining pricing, the television category showed a $240 million loss for the 12 months, compared with $112.3 million in operating income the previous year. The audio category registered a $53 million operating loss for the 12 months, compared with $199.2 million in operating income a year earlier. Video, however, posted $369 million in operating income for the fiscal year, which still was a 53.9 percent drop from the $808.9 million in operating income held down in the same 12 months the prior year.

For the fourth quarter, television sales rose 4.6 percent to $2.1 billion from a year-ago $2 billion. Video sales climbed 4.8 percent in the same period, to $2 billion from $1.9 billion, while audio sales were off 20.2 percent to $995 million from a year-earlier $1.3 billion.

The major CE segments all recorded operating losses in the fourth quarter. Television increased its quarter-on-quarter loss, to $151 million from a loss of $68 million, while audio increased its loss, to $101 million from a loss of $89.7 million. Video showed a fourth-quarter loss of $65 million, compared with operating income of $53.8 million in the same three months last year.

In geographic movement, Sony sales to the United States for the 12 months decreased 6.8 percent to $18.5 billion, from $20 billion the previous year. In the fourth quarter, Sony U.S. sales dropped 7.6 percent, down to $4.3 billion from a year-earlier $4.7 billion.

Increases in annual operating profit at Sony’s pictures and music segments helped to neutralize consolidated 12-month profit numbers. For the period, the company recorded a 15.2 percent increase in consolidated operating income, up to $1.1 billion, compared with a year-over-year $933.5 million. Consolidated net income for the 12 months jumped 85.1 percent to $1.5 billion from a year-ago $835.3 million.

Consolidated sales for the 12 months, however, declined 4.5 percent to $66.9 billion, from $70.8 billion the previous year. The primarily was affected by lower sales in the company’s music and game segments.

Fourth-quarter consolidated income numbers did not help annual figures. The company recorded a smaller operating loss in the three months, down to $723 million from a loss of $1 billion year-on-year. Net loss for the fourth quarter increased to $528 million from a year-earlier loss of $360.1 million.

Consolidated fourth-quarter sales slipped 4.2 percent to $15.9 billion, from $16.7 billion the previous year. Much of the sales decline was attributed to the company’s music segment and the establishment of Sony BMG, a 50-50 joint venture between Sony and Bertelsmann AG, which combined their music businesses in August 2004.