Sony 'shock' looms amid battered gadget sales threatening first operating loss in 14 years
TOKYO (AP) -- Sony's shares plunged Tuesday on reports that the iconic Japanese electronics maker is sinking into its first yearly operating loss in 14 years as sales fizzle for digital cameras, flat-panel TVs and other gadgets.
The media reports, coming just weeks after Toyota forecast its first annual operating loss in 70 years, highlight the pain even Japan's premier brands are suffering amid the global slowdown.
The nation's top business daily The Nikkei reported Tuesday that Sony was expected to rack up a 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion) operating loss this fiscal year ending March, its first since 1995.
Behind the dismal outlook are faltering sales of liquid crystal display TVs and other goods, especially in the key U.S. and European markets, The Nikkei said, adding that operating losses could balloon to as much as 200 billion yen ($2.2 billion).
The last -- and only -- time Sony racked up an operating loss, for the fiscal year ending March 1995, the red ink came from one-time losses in its movie division, marred by box office flops and lax cost controls, and its core electronics unit was booming.
Kazuharu Miura, analyst with Daiwa Institute of Research, expects Sony to tumble into a 110 billion yen ($1.2 billion) operating loss -- which reflects the company's core business operations -- for the fiscal year through March 31.
Past troubles in Sony's electronics business had been offset by gains in other divisions, such as financials and video games, he said, but both divisions are now beset by problems.
"In that sense, Sony is in an extremely tough situation this time," said Miura.
Drastic job cuts and reduction in research spending would be needed to wrest Sony out of its latest troubles, he said.
Other analysts echoed similar sentiments, noting the expected red ink from Sony's digital cameras and other products because of falls in both sales and prices.
Like other electronics makers, Sony has also had to battle plunging gadget prices.
Even products boasting costly technology have slid in prices amid intense competition, turning into mere "commodities," stripped of glamour that in the past helped boost prices -- at least for Sony.