Sony mixed, but bottom line big

Fewer '07 pics slow film revenue; one-time gains send profit soaring

Sony beat analysts' forecasts for its full fiscal-year profit, posting an increase of 192.5% to $3.7 billion, with mixed results across its divisions offset by a series of one-off gains.

Sony projected its video game unit would turn its first profit in three years in the just-started fiscal year, while profitability at its film arm would decline.

Management also predicted that its Blu-ray Disc next-generation DVD business would start writing profits soon. "Despite the success of Blu-ray, the company is still not making money on players yet, though we expect to go into the black on them by the second half of this year," Sony executive vp and CFO Nobuyuki Oneda said Wednesday.

Overall, Sony eyes a 20% operating profit gain in the new fiscal year.

For the fourth quarter, Sony swung to a profit even as revenue fell 6.5% to $19.5 billion. The company also said it will increase its annual dividend and issue a special cash dividend.

Sony's U.S.-traded shares jumped 8.9% to $50.17.

Sony said that full-year revenue rose 6.9% to $88.7 billion groupwide.

Fewer big theatrical titles in 2007 saw revenue at Sony Pictures fall 11.2% to $8.6 billion, though profit grew 25% helped by the sale of a bankruptcy claim against KirchMedia. Sony's home entertainment and TV business was boosted by sales of titles from the previous year. "Spider-Man 3" and "Superbad" contributed to theatrical and home entertainment sales.

Reduced production costs for the PlayStation 3 helped to narrow losses in the gaming division from $2.3 billion to $1.3 billion; the unit saw revenue rise 26.3% to $12.8 billion.

The PS3 sold 9.2 million units worldwide, an increase of 5.6 million — but still was outsold by the PS2 with 13.7 million. The PlayStation Portable sold 13.9 million units, up 4.4 million units from fiscal 2006. (partialdiff)