Sony posts fourth consecutive loss

Home entertainment weak, but Michael Jackson sales strong

NEW YORK -- Sony posted its fourth consecutive quarterly loss but exceeded expectations amid cost cuts and predicted that the back half of its fiscal year will see stronger film and video game results.

The company reduced its operating loss forecast for its fiscal year that ends March 31 to 60 billion yen ($659.1 million) from 110 billion yen previously. That compares with a 227.78 billion yen loss in the previous fiscal year.

For its fiscal second quarter ended Sept. 30, Sony posted an operating loss of 32.6 billion yen ($362 million), and a loss attributable to shareholders of 26.3 billion yen ($292 million), amid weak results in key businesses driven by the recession and a strengthening yen. That compared with an operating profit of 11 billion yen in the year-ago period. Revenue fell 20% to 1.66 trillion yen ($18.5 billion). Management on Friday said it remains on track to boost the operating profit at Sony's film unit for the fiscal year.

The film division swung to an operating loss of $71 million for the fiscal second quarter on a 20% revenue decline, or 30% on a yen basis, to $1.52 billion. "Hancock" had boosted the year-ago period's results, while the latest quarter had no comparable big release, with "District 9" and "Julie & Julia" the key titles. Home entertainment results were weaker because of fewer DVD releases and general market malaise, Sony said.

Sony Music swung to an operating profit of $96 million in the latest quarter on revenue of $1.38 billion. Sony owned 50% of Sony BMG last year, then took full control Oct. 1, 2008.

During a conference call with investors, Sony CFO and executive deputy president Nobuyuki Oneda and Robert Wiesenthal, executive vp and CFO of Sony Corp. of America, said that sales of Michael Jackson's music have been particularly strong. They cited 5 million Jackson CD unit sales in the U.S. and 15 million globally since the start of Sony's fiscal year in April.

Other best-selling Sony albums during the latest quarter included releases from Whitney Houston, Kings of Leon and Daughtry.

Sony's Networked Products unit, which includes its video game business as well as Vaio computers and Walkman media players, recorded a wider quarterly loss.

However, sales of PlayStation 3 game consoles rose 33% to 3.2 million in the quarter, thanks in part to a recent price cut.

American depositary shares of Sony fell 3.8% amid a broader market decline to $29.39.