Sony Film Unit Swings to $376 Million Full-Year Profit

Kazuo Hirai and Kenichiro Yoshida - One Time Use Only - Getty - H 2018
Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

Sony Corp. overall posted its best financials in two decades with annual profits of $4.4 billion.

Sony Corp.'s film unit recorded a full fiscal-year operating profit of $376 million (?41.1 billion), while the group logged profits of $4.42 billion (?491 billion), the company said Friday.

Revenue at Sony Pictures Entertainment in the fiscal year through the end of March was up 12 percent to $9.25 billion (?1.011 trillion).

Last year, the pictures division took a $962 million (?112.1 billion) impairment charge due to a reduced profitability outlook for the movies and home entertainment business.

The bottom line this year was boosted by such hits as Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Television production continued to be a bright spot at the pictures division, with higher licensing fees from various U.S. series and subscription revenue in India, though lower revenue from licensing of back catalog shows.

Despite this year's big hit films and the vastly improved financials at the pictures division, it severely lags other segments in terms of return on investment (ROI), something that won't have fallen under the radar of new CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, the former chief financial officer who took over from Kaz Hirai on April 1.

Supplementary financial information released with the earnings announcement showed that pictures required by far the biggest investment of capital and produced by far the lowest ROI. Sony invested $8 billion (?876 billion) in the pictures division, more than double the game division, producing an ROI of just 3.1 percent, against a figure of 28.7 percent for the PlayStation business.

Overall sales at Sony Corp. were up 12 percent to $77 billion (?8.54 trillion), boosted by the weakening of the yen against the euro and dollar, which lifts revenues when the company brings earnings back to Japan.

Operating income, seen by many analysts as a key indicator of the underlying health of a business, more than tripled to $6.6 billion. The $4.42 billion in net profits was more than five times that of the previous year.

The game segment has continued to deliver profits with the success of the PlayStation 4 and growing subscriptions to the PlayStation Plus service boosting sales 18 percent to $17.8 billion (?1.94 trillion) and pushing operating income up to $1.6 billion (?178 billion). Sony sold 19 million PS4s last year, compared to 20 million in 2016 and made more money through its game network services, which now has more than 34 million subscribers, than from hardware sales.

Profits at Sony Music also grew, with operating income up to $1.17 billion (?128 billion) and sales up 23.5 percent to $7.3 billion (?800 billion) on bigger revenues from streaming services and the Fate/Grand Order mobile game, which is included in Sony Music Japan's figures.

Sony stock closed down 0.7 percent in Tokyo before the earnings report, while the Nikkei 225 index was up by a similar margin. Sony's share price has risen by around 75 percent over the last two years.