Sony Warns of $962 Million Goodwill Loss, Says Studio Is Not for Sale

Sony Warns of $962 Million Goodwill
AP Images

Sony Corp. has revealed that its Pictures Division will take an “impairment loss” of $962 million (JPY112.1 billion) in the three months to December, the third quarter of its financial year. But the Japanese giant insisted that its movie business is not for sale.

“Make no mistake. Sony Corp.’s commitment to SPE remains unchanged. The value of high-quality content continues to rise. As we have stated on many occasions, including at SPE’s All Hands meeting at the end of last year, Sony Corp. sees SPE as a very important part of Sony group, and will continue to invest to achieve long-term growth and increased profits in this space,” Sony group chief Kazuo Hirai and Michael Lynton, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s departing CEO, said in a joint statement accompanying the financial announcement.

The company described the write-down as a “non-cash loss.” It said the loss was due to a number of factors past and present, including the purchase of the studio almost 30 years ago and the “dramatic shifts in the home entertainment space.”

The write-down will be recorded as an operating loss in the company’s quarterly and current-year financial figures. Sony is to release its third-quarter figures Thursday, which also happens to be Lynton’s final day as CEO. He will serve as co-CEO with Hirai for the next six months to help find a successor and help with the transition. He announced earlier this month that he would be leaving SPE to concentrate on his duties as chairman of Snap, owner of social-media platform Snapchat.

Sony’s disclosure Monday of the nearly $1-billion write-down comes three years after Hirai made clear that improving SPE’s results was an urgent priority. But the studio has continued to struggle with management woes and flops at the box office, prompting speculation that a major reorganization could be on the cards.

Regarding the write-down, Sony Corp. said in a filing that “a majority of the goodwill that was impaired was originally recorded at the time of the acquisition of Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc. in 1989. The impairment charge resulted from a downward revision in the future profitability projection for the Motion Pictures business within the Pictures segment.

“The downward revision was primarily due to a lowering of previous expectations regarding the home entertainment business, mainly driven by an acceleration of market decline. Underlying profitability projections of film performance were also reduced, but the adverse impact of that reduction is expected to be largely mitigated by measures that have been identified to improve the profitability of the Motion Pictures business.”

Sony said that profit in the Pictures segment overall is expected to grow because of measures currently underway to improve the profitability of the Motion Pictures business and further expansion of the Television Productions and Media Networks businesses. Over the past five years, TV has risen in relation to movies as a share of Sony’s revenues. Its recent hits include “The Crown,” airing on Netflix.

In their statement, Hirai and Lynton talked up the prospects for SPE and the movie business, despite recent box-office disappointments such as the “Ghostbusters” reboot and “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” Ang Lee’s most recent film.

“As we announced recently, we will be spending more time on the studio lot over the next several weeks, focused on two main priorities: (1) naming and transitioning to a new CEO of Sony Pictures, and (2) building on the turnaround efforts currently underway at the studio, particularly in motion pictures,” Hirai and Lynton’s statement said.

“Those efforts to date – including expanding the studio’s global reach, growing and leveraging SPE’s existing IP and realizing a culture of financial responsibility – have laid the groundwork for real reform, and we are confident they will lead to an increase the profitability of our motion pictures business moving forward.”

They also attempted to put the film studio’s current state of flux into context within the Japanese electronics group. Even after exiting from several business sectors which has interests that still stretch from making TV sets through to games.

“One of Sony’s great strengths is the diversity of its business portfolio and unifying power of the ‘Sony’ brand. Each business must be autonomous, self-sustaining, but at the same time they work cooperatively under the common identity of ‘Sony,’ aiming to enhance the total corporate value of Sony group. It is important to keep in mind that there was a time when some businesses were facing tough challenges; other businesses helped us to improve and sustain the profitability of the entire Sony Group,” the pair wrote.

“Fiscal year 2017, which begins in April, is the final year under our second mid-range plan. We look forward to working together to achieve our consolidated financial targets of more than 10% in return on equity and JPY500 billion in operating income, and to make a Sony that always brings inspiration and emotional engagement (Kando) to our customers.”

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  1. Yup says:

    Ha! – They are just taking a lesson from Trump on this by using almost the exact same amount to not pay taxes for the next bunch of years. – It’s just another international banking & tax scheme rigged for big businesses that the average citizen has no knowledge about. #smh

  2. Chris Madeiros says:

    If any one actually gave ghostbusters a shot it was pretty funny.

  3. Ben says:

    I thought they still wanted to talk about how the Ghostbusters reboot was a “hit” and how they were “already working on a sequel”. Hmm, that is what they were saying when it came out.

    • Brodie Marschall says:

      Yeah, I think they need to sell the franchise and Spider-Man’s movie Rights back to Disney to recuperate for their “Impairment Loss”.

  4. Mark ONeill says:

    All liberal films featuring diversity are BORING

    • baldwinbravo says:

      Films that are preachy/condescending are typically disliked, and it is certainly fair to say that at the moment, most such films are coming from a liberal/left perspective.
      Not exclusively… it seems there was a recent film about a military sniper that was panned by the left for much the same reasons; but overall, the left does hold more sway these days.

      I think what needs to be kept in mind is that, for the most part, people go to films expecting escapism from their real life problems, not to be filled with guilt or self doubt.

    • zach says:

      you must be really fun at parties, huh?

  5. El Duderino says:

    Congratulations Hollywood. You’re successfully destroying yourselves with this PC bull sh it. I’d much rather watch conspiracy docs on youtube than waste money on poorly written trash put out by Hollywood.

  6. Morris says:

    What is going on over there? Terrible.

  7. NoDice55 says:

    So Sony Pictures loses a billion dollars. How in the world can it keep operating? . . . oh right, it’s being propped up by the communist Chinese government.

  8. spike says:

    smoke and mirrors bullshit. you guys can’t turn a profit and should get out of the movie business altogether. you’re just throwing good money after bad at this point.

    or…

    just fire your development department and start getting some great scripts to produce.

    your choice. I personally don’t give a damn. you and the rest of the studios are fading dinosaurs.

  9. Je Vizzusi says:

    The old adage Sony No Baloney is gone! They need to dump Motion Picture Division or divide it up into multiple smaller valued assets. These statements conclude profit is the overriding factors in decisions made. Blaming market downturns considering forecasts is crazy. Everyone knows nobody goes to the movies anymore. Another typical example of a Giant Corporation involvement in a Art Form. It won’t work, can’t work and should never work.
    @JEV1A

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