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-- Sony forecasts a net profit of Y30 billion for current fiscal year
-- Sony reports a net loss of Y456.66 billion for last fiscal year ended March
-- Sony logs Y255.21 billion net loss for fourth quarter through March
(Adds losses from flat-panel television business in 4th paragraph, analyst's comments in 9th paragraphs)
By Kelly Olsen and Juro Osawa
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
TOKYO (Dow Jones)--Sony Corp. (6758.TO) said Thursday it expects to swing back to profit in the current fiscal year on a recovery in its consumer electronics and component businesses, after bleeding red ink for four straight years including a $5.7 billion net loss in the last fiscal year.
For the current fiscal year through March 2013, the Japanese electronics giant forecasts a net profit of Y30 billion, an operating profit of Y180 billion and a 14% rise in revenue to Y7.4 trillion.
Once the symbol of Japan's technological prowess, the maker of Trinitron TVs and Walkman music players has been floundering for years. It has been unable to match Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) game-changing products such as the iPhone and iPad. Meanwhile, South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. (005930.SE) has established itself as a global electronics powerhouse, having decisively shot past Sony in major segments like TVs.
Sony said it expects losses at its troubled flat-panel television business to narrow sharply this fiscal year to about Y80 billion, from Y148 billion in the just-ended fiscal year. To achieve this, it has taken drastic restructuring steps such as discontinuing its display panel joint venture with Samsung.
"Losses in the TV business will shrink by a wide margin," said Chief Financial Officer Masaru Kato at a press conference.
Kato said Sony will try to increase TV sales in emerging markets to make up for sluggish demand in developed markets such as Japan, the U.S. and Europe. He said the company aims to make the TV business profitable in the next fiscal year through March 2014.
Sony also expects major improvements in its camera, personal computer and component businesses--operations that were damaged by Japan's earthquake and tsunami and the flooding in Thailand last year.
For the last fiscal year, Sony posted a net loss of Y456.66 billion, an operating loss of Y67.28 billion on revenue of Y6.493 trillion.
Mizuho Investors Securities analyst Nobuo Kurahashi said a major recovery in the current year wouldn't be a surprise, given much of Sony's losses can be attributed to one-time factors such as natural disasters. Yet, "many investors will remain skeptical because it's unclear whether Sony can really deliver the growth it expects" in key markets like smartphones, where competition is intensifying, he said.
The losses for the just-ended fiscal year--due in part to hefty restructuring costs in the TV business, which has lost money for eight straight years--underscore the challenges facing the consumer electronics sector.
Last month, TV and display maker Sharp Corp. (6752.TO) posted its deepest-ever annual net loss of Y376.08 billion for the fiscal year ended March and said it expects to remain unprofitable in the current year. Panasonic Corp. (6752.TO), which reports earnings Friday, has forecast a Y780 billion net loss for the fiscal year ended March.
In a stark contrast, Samsung last month reported its best quarterly net profit to date for its first quarter ended March, buoyed by the popularity of its Galaxy smartphones.
For the fiscal fourth quarter from January to March, Sony recorded a net loss of Y255.21 billion, compared with a net loss of Y388.80 billion for the same period a year earlier. The year-earlier loss was due to a one-time tax-related writedown.
Sony also posted an operating loss of Y1.41 billion for the quarter, compared with a Y73.37 billion loss a year earlier. Revenue rose to Y1.600 trillion from Y1.581 trillion.
Sony's earnings are based on U.S. accounting standards.