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Sony CE Sales Flat, Pension Gain Boosts Earnings

Tokyo — Sales in the consumer electronics business at Sony during the company’s fiscal second quarter remained flat, dropping less than 1 percent to $10.8 billion, as movement of traditional CRT televisions continued a downward drift, combined with on-going emphasis of flat-panel and plasma units, as well as digital cameras, both of which categories faced increasing competition.

Sales of LCD flat-panel TVs increased, climbing in the United States, while sales of DVD Handycam video cameras also moved up, said Sony.

The company’s CE business more than doubled its operating income in the second quarter, ended Sept. 30, jumping 144.6 percent to $153 million, from $61.3 million a year earlier. The increase in income solely was the result of a $565 million gain concerning the company’s employee pension fund.

Products that had a negative impact on CE operating income included CRT televisions, which experienced a significant decrease in sales, and CCDs and LCD televisions, both of which were impacted by a decline in unit selling prices. Video cameras, such as Handycam, posted increased operating income due to good sales performance.

Sony sales in the television category slipped 18.6 percent in the second quarter, down to $1.5 billion from a year-ago $1.8 billion. Overall video sales were about flat at $2.2 billion, while audio sales dropped 11.8 percent to $1.1 billion, from $1.2 billion in the second quarter last year, with Sony continuing to lag behind competitors in portable music players.

For the six months, television sales decreased 19.5 percent, hitting $2.9 billion, down from a year-earlier $3.5 billion. Video sales in the six months were about flat at $4.4 billion, while audio decreased 12.2 percent, coming in at $2.2 billion, from $2.4 billion in the first half of last year.

For the first half, CE business sales edged downward less than 1 percent to $20.6 billion, while the category recorded an operating loss of $168 million, compared with year-on-year operating income of $132.4 million.

Overall Sony sales to the United States in the second quarter dipped 4.7 percent to $3.9 billion from $4 billion, while sales to the United States for the six months were off 2.4 percent to $7.56 billion from $7.6 billion.

Second-quarter sales in Sony’s game business soared 79.1 percent, reaching $1.9 billion, compared with $1 billion a year ago. Sony noted a significant contribution to sales from PSP and an increase of PS2 unit sales in the United States, which resulted in a significant increase in dollar volume in all geographic areas.

Overall software sales increased as a result of the contribution to sales from PSP software, despite a decrease in PS2 software sales. Revenue slightly decreased in the United States.

Operating income in the second quarter for Sony’s game business hit $73 million, which compared year-on-year is virtually a break-even figure.

For the six months, sales in the company’s game business rose 72 percent to $3.4 billion from a year-earlier $1.9 billion. Operating income for this period reached $21 million, compared with a $25 million loss in the same six months last year.

Consolidated Sony sales remained virtually unchanged in the second quarter, at $15.1 billion, with operating income rising 51.9 percent to $583 million, up from $374.7 million in the second three months last year. This increase includes a one-time gain of $650 million due to a transfer of the company’s employee pension fund, and outweighed falling television prices. Net income in the three months hit $252 million, a 46.5 percent drop from the $459.2 million recorded in 2004.

For the six months, consolidated sales were off 1.6 percent to $28.9 billion, while operating income slipped 4.7 percent to $448 million from a year-ago $458.9 million.