Bravia, Vaio sales buoy Sony earnings forecast

by Taiga Uranaka

Sony Corp. said Thursday it revised its earnings forecast for the full year through March 31 from a net loss of 10 billion yen to a net profit of 70 billion yen, buoyed by stronger-than-expected sales of Bravia TVs and Vaio PCs over the holidays.

Despite the upbeat revision, Sony kept its original projection for its ailing TV business. The company said it has to wait until the latter half of fiscal 2006 to return to the black.

For October-December earnings, the consumer electronics giant’s net profit rose 18 percent to a record 168.9 billion yen. Revenue rose 10 percent to 2.37 trillion yen.

The strong results were partly helped by the dollar’s sharp rise against the, yen with the impact pushing up revenue by 146.9 billion yen.

During the three-month yearend period, operating profit of the company’s core consumer electronics business jumped 56 percent to 78.9 billion yen.

Sony’s newly launched Bravia liquid crystal display TVs enjoyed robust consumer demand in the U.S., Japan and other areas, company officials said, adding that it claims a U.S. market share of 30 percent. Demand for the company’s camcorders and PCs also grew sharply during the quarter.

Given the better-than-expected sales of LCD TVs, Sony revised its full-year forecast to 2.8 million units, from an initial 2.5 million.

The company also announced that it will stop the production of AIBO robots by the end of the current fiscal year as part of the sweeping restructuring plan announced in September. It will also terminate the development of QRIO humanoid units.

The company’s game business also posted a strong rise in profit and sales during the quarter, thanks to the vast popularity of PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 2 game consoles.

Speaking about a joint LCD venture with Samsung Electronics Co. of South Korea, Chief Financial Officer Nobuyuki Oneda told a news conference that Sony plans to negotiate with Samsung to increase the volume of LCDs supplied to Sony.

Currently, the two partners equally divide LCDs made by the venture, but Oneda said Sony needs more to address growing demand. He also hinted that additional investment may be in the offing to expand manufacturing capacity.

NEC profit plunges

The Associated Press

NEC Corp. said Thursday its group net profit plunged for the October-December period as its chip and mobile phone operations struggled. NEC posted a group net profit of 20.78 billion yen for the fiscal third quarter that ended Dec. 31, down 47 percent from its year-earlier profit of 39.41 billion yen.

The firm booked a big gain a year earlier from the listing of its memory chip affiliate.

Flat TVs top CRT sets

Shipments of plasma and liquid crystal display TVs totaled 4.69 million units in 2005, exceeding for the first time those of bulkier cathode-ray tube sets, which came to 3.98 million units, an industry group said Thursday.

More consumers opted for flat-screen TVs as they have become more affordable, according to the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association.

The shipments of LCD sets surged 58.3 percent from the previous year to 4.22 million units and those of plasma TVs jumped 37.8 percent to 470,000 units. Sales of LCD TVs with 30-inch and larger screens in particular were robust.