Sony Pictures profits soar

Net profits up 105% to $540 million

Sony Pictures returned to profit in Sony Corp.’s fiscal first quarter, but the movie sector improvement was dwarfed by the huge turnaround in electronics.

Net profits at the conglom soared 105% to ¥66.5 billion ($540 million) between in the quarter ended June 30 on sales up 13% at $16 billion.

Success of “Spider-Man 3” plus growing ad sales at international TV channels lifted the motion picture division’s revenue by 13% to $1.93 billion. A weaker yen also flattered results; sales were up 7% in constant dollar terms.

Division swung to a profit of $26 million from red ink of $8.7 million a year earlier. Company noted a decrease in marketing costs for upcoming summer re-leases.

The motion picture division benefited from strong homevid sales from “Casino Royale” and “Stomp the Yard,” which both saw theatrical release in the previ-ous financial year, though perfs of third-party titles acquired for video were down.

Electronics sales were lifted by 12% (4% in constant currency terms) as the Cybershot camera, Bravia flatscreen TVs and Handycam video cameras did well. Currency appreciation and semi-conductor margins lifted the electronics division’s net profits by 77%.

Games had a mixed influence on the group results. Sales were up 60% vs. a year earlier, reflecting the contribution of the PlayStation3. But losses increased as Sony was forced to sell consoles at a loss at certain strategic locations. Games recorded an operating loss of $237 million.

Results at Sony BMG Music, which are not shown as part of the conglom’s figures, revealed a turnaround as digital music sales improved and overhead costs were cut. Overall sales were essentially unchanged at $875 million, but company swung to an operating profit of $21 million from an operating loss of $81 million.

Bestsellers were Avril Lavigne’s “The Best Damn Thing,” Kelly Clarkson’s “My December” and R. Kelly’s “Double Up.”

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