Sony finally back in the black (but not thanks to PlayStation)

Sony returned to profit in 2009, despite lacklustre sales for its gaming division

Sony returned to the black in the last three months of 2009, achieving its first operating profit in five quarters and cutting its forecast loss for its full fiscal year, which ends March 31.

The company reported an operating profit of ¥146 billion (US$1.5 billion) for the quarter, its highest level in two years, on the back of sales of ¥2.2 trillion, up 4 percent from the same period a year earlier. Net profitability returned after three quarters of losses and was ¥79.2 billion.

The upwards revision comes partly as a result of the improved profitability in the consumer products and financial services divisions and a good start to Sony's fiscal fourth quarter, which began in January.

However, the group was hit by lackluster results from its gaming unit, which saw sales of the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable fall.

Sales of the PlayStation 2 dropped to 2.1 million units from 2.5 million units a year earlier while the PlayStation Portable saw a drop to 4.2 million from 5.1 million. The launch of a revised PlayStation 3 pushed sales of the console up to 6.5 million units from 4.5 million and cost improvements in manufacturing of the machine helped offset the drop in sales of the PS2 and PSP.

For the full fiscal year Sony cut its PSP sales forecast by a third to 10 million units while raising the PS2 target from 5 million to 7 million consoles on the strength of demand from developing nations. PS3 sales targets were left unchanged at 13 million consoles.

Sony cut further its loss forecasts for the full year to the end of March and now expects to see a net loss of ¥70 billion. Sony had been expecting to lose ¥95 billion, a figure that was revised down in October from ¥120 billion.

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Martyn Williams

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