The reign of Sony Corp.’s (NYSE: SNE) new president and CEO, Kazuo Hirai, does not look like it will be any better than that of his predecessor. Sir Howard Stringer has been blamed for a series of missteps that nearly ruined what was once one of Japan’s greatest companies. Sony announced earnings for its most recent quarter, which were awful, and cut its forecasts for future periods. Sony’s resurrection, promised by Hirai, is years away, even under the best case scenario.
Sony’s revenue for the quarter that ended June 30, compared to the same period last year, was just above flat at $19.18 billion. Operating income fell 77.2% to a paltry $79 million.
Among the parts of the company that are a long way from prosperity is the large “games” division, which has among its products the PS3. The console has struggled against products from Nintendo Co. and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), as well as the migration of gaming to tablets and smartphones. Revenue for the division fell 14.5% to $1.49 billion, and the unit posted an operating loss of $45 million. The trend toward portable gaming makes Sony’s challenge difficult.
Sony’s TV business continues to deteriorate rapidly, and that trend will not end. Competition from low-cost providers out of South Korea and Taiwan will make it impossible for Sony to regain a position of strength in the sector. That, more than any other factor, will hurt Sony’s top line and profits indefinitely. Revenue from the division fell 26% to $3.19 billion. The unit posted a loss of $126 million.
One of Sony’s few bright spots was its studio operations. But numbers change significantly from quarter to quarter in this division, based on whether it can put out blockbuster movies. Sales rose 6.2% to $1.94 billion. Even with that success, Sony did not contain costs, and the division lost $62 million. Without the success of “Men in Black 3,” the results would have been even worse.
As part of the conclusion of the earnings report, management wrote:
On April 1, 2012, under the direction of new President and CEO Kazuo Hirai, Sony implemented a reorganization, primarily of Sony’s electronics businesses, recasting the responsibilities of Sony’s executive officers and taking measures to revitalize the electronics businesses and reorient them towards growth.
Examined division by division, it becomes apparent that too many things are wrong at Sony, and they will remain wrong for too long a time for Hirai to make a difference.
Douglas A. McIntyre