Sony's yen for profit finally satisfied

Profits jump for first time in five quarters

TOKYO -- Boosted by boxoffice performance and its video game division, not to mention lower costs from the elimination of about 20,000 jobs, Sony on Thursday posted its first profit in five quarters.

Net income for the October-December period jumped to ¥79.2 billion ($861 million) from ¥10.4 billion in the same quarter in 2008. Revenue rose 3.9% to $24.3 billion.

Theatrical earnings from "2012" and "This Is It" and home entertainment sales from "Angels & Demons" and "Terminator Salvation" boosted fiscal third-quarter sales at Sony Pictures Entertainment 16% to $2.21 billion. "The Dr. Oz Show" and revenue growth at SPE's international television networks also helped.

The lone feature film cited by Sony for its underperformance was "Did You Hear About the Morgans?"

The music division showed a 2% uptick in revenue to $1.8 billion and an 8% increase in operating income to $251 million.

The Network Products & Services unit turned a $65 million loss in the quarter in 2008 into a $214 million surplus on strong sales of Vaio computers and PlayStation 3s. The PS3 racked up global sales of 6.5 million units following its price cut last year.

"I think the economy has bottomed out; it's still possible we could break even for the full year," said CFO Nobuyuki Oneda, who had earlier announced a reduced forecast of $330 million in losses for the financial year to March.

During a conference call, Sony Corp. of America CFO and Sony head of corporate development and M&A Rob Wiesenthal said Sony is seeing "definite signs of stabilization and improvement" in DVD sales.

Wiesenthal said Blu-ray now accounts for 6% of transactions and 8% of overall home entertainment value. Growth of Blu-ray notwithstanding, Sony said this week it was issuing 450 pink slips, mostly in its home entertainment division.