Sony fiscal pic mixed

Sony Corp.’s entertainment business group, which encompasses its film and music operations, posted uninspiring gains for the fiscal year ending March 31.

Sony benefited by the yen’s 15% decline against the dollar over the past year, enabling the Japanese conglomerate to report higher sales for both the studio and music group. The music group’s fiscal year ended March 31, while the studio closed Feb. 28.

But even in yen terms, Sony Entertainment’s operating income fell 46% while the group sustained a $1 million quarterly loss when measured in dollars and compared against previous earnings reports.

For the year Sony Entertainment had operating income of $534.5 million, up 3.2% (inflated to 21% growth in yen). Sony Corp. as a whole reported 157% higher net profit of $1.12 billion on 23% higher revenue of $45.6 billion.

Sony does not disclose earnings of the studio and music group separately. The studio suffered a slight dip in sales in the fourth quarter to $1.05 billion (although the revenue rose 18% in yen terms), despite the success of “Jerry Maguire.”

Part of the reason for the less-than-stellar performance on the studio side was that Sony Pictures’ quarter runs a month earlier than Sony Corp.’s quarter — so the studio’s contribution finished Feb. 28 and didn’t include March box office of “Jerry Maguire” or any of the March releases such as “Donnie Brasco.”

For the year the studio’s sales rose 18% to $3.53 billion, driven by the continued success of TV game shows “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” as well as video sell-through of “Jumanji,” “Fly Away Home” and “Matilda.” Sony noted that these positives “more than offset the disappointing box office results of several films released during the year.”

Revenue in Sony Music Group’s worldwide operation (SMEI) rose 11.8% in yen terms in the fourth quarter to $1.1 billion.

The fluctuation of the yen accounted for the music group’s revenues appearing to have dropped 2.5% from $4.83 billion to $4.72 billion for the fiscal year.

In yen it rose 14% during the year rising to 584 million from the previous year’s 512 million.

SMEI revenues were up across the board in all operating divisions and exceeded previous year’s results.

The 14% rise in sales was due to “favorable sales growth outside Japan” offsetting “the weak retail environment in the United States.” The increase included a 10% dip from Sony Music Japan, which slightly offset SMEI’s gains.

Strong music slate

In terms of U.S. sales, SMEI rose 4% on a dollar basis for the fiscal year and 17% in the fourth quarter, thanks to a strong slate of releases from such artists as Celine Dion, the Fugees, Mariah Carey and Oasis.

More than 112 million units were sold on the backs of 15 artists during the fiscal year, representing just a fraction of its overall release slate.

SMEI nabbed a 13.8% domestic market share in the three months ended March 31 and saw an increase in U.S. sales despite the overall soft U.S. market.

It was among three U.S. major music congloms (the others were Universal & EMI) to post significant increases during its fiscal year.

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