Spidey spins Sony profits

Sale of Telemundo, half of Columbia House ups revs

NEW YORK — Sony Corp. swung to a profit last quarter on the shoulders of “Spider-Man” and a sharp upturn at its giant electronics biz.

The conglom posted net income of $481 million for the fiscal first quarter ended in June from a loss a year ago as revenue rose 5.4% to $14.7 billion.

Sony Pictures’ sales jumped 28% to $1.5 billion as “Spider-Man,” the studio’s best-performing pic ever, had grossed $675 million at the end of the quarter. “The Panic Room” also weighed in, as well as DVD sales of “Black Hawk Down,” “The Mothman Prophecies” and “Not Another Teen Movie.”

The studio swung to an operating profit of $78 million. The unit booked a large gain of 66.5 billion yen ($570 million) from the sale of Telemundo.

Lower TV revs offset

Upbeat numbers offset lower network TV revenue as that biz was consolidated, and marketing costs for “Men in Black II,” “Stuart Little 2” and “Mr. Deeds.”

Sony also reported an unspecified “provision with respect to income recorded from a financially impaired licensee of feature films and television product.” That refers to Germany’s Kirch Media. Sony, in partnership with Commerzbank, is one of several bidders for Kirch; a sale is likely in the next two months.

Execs declined to comment on the expected reshuffling of studio execs to elevate the triumvirate of Amy Pascal, Yair Landau and Jeff Blake to top posts.

Sony Music sales slowed, falling 5.6% to $1.15 billion on losses of $86 million. Company cited a contraction of the global music industry due to digital piracy and other issues as well as restructuring costs.

Sale nets gain

Sony recently sold its half of Columbia House for $67 million, realizing an $11 million gain in the quarter.

At electronics, sales were flat at about $10 billion, but operating income surged to $413 million. Some consumer product sales rose, and the division has cut costs. It also moved its loss-making mobile phone business off the books into a joint venture with Ericsson.

But Sony anticipates the operating environment for its biggest division will become “even more severe” as consumer confidence wanes and the yen outpaces other currencies.

Sony’s games unit saw sales ease 1.1% to $1.29 billion as it swung to an operating income of $21 million.

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