Sony Headed for Worse than Expected Annual Loss

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Sony Headed for Worse than Expected Annual LossSony Corp., Japan’s biggest consumer-electronics exporter, has more than doubled its annual loss forecast to 220 billion yen ($2.9 billion). The company announced the forecast in its third-quarter results, taking the market by surprise, which was expecting a full-year loss of barely half that amount.

The company said that production disruptions caused by last year’s floods in Thailand, and a strong yen are the primary reasons for the rise in losses. This will be forth consecutive annual loss for the Tokyo-based company, a first since it was listed in 1958.

Sales targets for the PlayStation 3, which the company does not plan to replace soon, were cut from 15 million units to 14 million. Sony also slashed the sales target for cameras to 21 million units from 23 million and said that personal- computer sales should also be lower than the prvious forecast of 9.4 million. Camcorder and Blu-ray disc are also projected to report lower sales, the company said. The company posted a third-quarter net loss of 159 billion yen, much higher than the street estimate of 43 billion-yen.  The company expects to maintain its target of selling 20 million televisions, but will suffer losses on account of termination of a display-panel venture with Samsung Electronics Co.

Thailand’s worst floods in 70 years will hurt the company’s profit by an estimated 45 billion yen, while the appreciating yen will hit the company by as much as 20 billion yen, Chief Financial Officer Masaru Kato said today. Rising yen decreases the repatriated value of Sony’s overseas sales, which is in start contrast to a weakening won, which helps inflate the export figures for Samsung and LG.

Over the past decade, Sony has lost ground to Samsung and LG Electronics Inc., both of which have profitable TV businesses. Sony is joined by fellow Japanese television makers Sharp Corp. and Panasonic Corp., which have been severely affected by the strengthening yen.

Sony has launched new tablets, cameras and handheld game players to take on Apple Inc. (AAPL), and has also bought the stake of Ericsson AB in their mobile-phone partnership. Sony, last month, said that it has developed three new imaging sensors that are smaller, capture higher quality images and run on less power. According to Tadashi Saito, head of the chip business, Sony plans to spend about 140 billion yen to double the production of complementary metal-oxide semiconductors (CMOS), which should help the company expand into the medical sector,.

Sony yesterday named Kazuo Hirai as the Chief Executive Officer replacing Howard Stringer, starting April 1. Sony has plunged 53 percent in the past 12 months, and is down more than 60 percent since Stringer, 69, took charge in June 2005. Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service have cut Sony’s rating in the past couple of months, both casting aspersions on the company’s ability to turn around the TV operations.

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