Electronics giant racks up net loss of $289 mil

TOKYO — Sony has reported yet another quarter of losses — its fourth straight — though the pain is less than analysts predicted. The electronics giant racked up a net loss of ¥26.3 billion ($289 million) in the September quarter vs. compared with a $228 million profit a year earlier.

Meanwhile, sales plunged 20% year on year to $18.2 billion, and the strengthening of the yen delivered an $846 million blow to operating profits.

One positive note was games sales, which rebounded after Sony bowed a lower-priced PlayStation 3 in September. The worldwide total for the period was 3.2 million units vs. 2.4 million in the year-earlier quarter.

The picture division reported a 30.4% year-on-year drop in sales — or 20% on a U.S. dollar basis — to $1.52 billion, with both theatrical and home entertainment revenues falling. There was no hit to match “Hancock” from the fiscal second quarter last year, though “District 9,” “The Ugly Truth” and “Julie and Julia” recorded solid numbers.

Strong demand for Michael Jackson’s last album, “This Is It,” as well as catalog albums, also boosted the bottom line, though not enough to make up for the slowing of TV sales. The movie also performed strongly over its opening weekend, taking $101 million at the worldwide box office.

Piracy is still a top concern for Sony. In a Q&A with investors, Robert Wiesenthal, Sony Corp.’s head of corporate development, said the company is taking extra measures to combat piracy-related losses, such as bowing the Jackson film simultaneously across the world.

“Day-and-date releases are actually doing a lot to curb piracy, getting the films out there, but also giving legal alternatives to consumers both on the music side and on the film side — that’s really how we do our best to try to curb it, but there is really no stopping it all together,” he said.

Wiesenthal added that Sony Pictures has high hopes for a number of upcoming releases, including Roland Emmerich’s “2012” and Christmas release “Did You Hear About the Morgans?”

Under chairman-CEO Howard Stringer, Sony has moved aggressively to cut costs, slashing 16,000 jobs and closing eight plants. These efforts have finally started draining the sea of red ink, and Sony now expects its net loss for the fiscal year to total $1.04 billion, down from the previous prediction of $1.32 billion.

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