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Showbiz bolsters Sony

Spidey sequel keeps Sony Corp. afloat last quarter

NEW YORK — Hollywood — namely “Spider-Man 2” and “Seinfeld” on homevideo — helped keep giant Sony Corp. afloat last quarter, with income at Sony Pictures Entertainment surging an impressive 232%.

Sony said Thursday that SPE operating profit hit $181 million for the fiscal third quarter ended Dec. 31.

Revenue rose 12% to $1.97 billion.

Conglom also noted solid theatrical perfs from “The Grudge” and “Christmas With the Kranks” — partly offset by tepid “Spanglish.” More than 30 million DVD and VHS units of “Spider-Man 2” and “Seinfeld” were shipped worldwide in the quarter.

Sony’s film biz is set to expand soon as the company and several partners close on a purchase of MGM. Deal still awaits a greenlight from European regulators.

Sony’s overall sales slipped 7.5% to $20.9 billion, squeezed by a dip in electronics and games. Operating income fell 13% to $1.24 billion.

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Net profit, however, soared an anomalous 55% due to complex tax benefits and the fact that Sony took a hefty writedown the year earlier.

Meanwhile, the company transformed its music biz by merging Sony Music with BMG last August. Each owns 50% of the new venture, called Sony BMG Music Entertainment, which added $11 million to Sony’s quarterly profit.

Year-over-year figures in music — where sales and operating profit fell, respectively, 60% and 26% — aren’t comparable since the latest quarter doesn’t include Sony-BMG but only reflects numbers for Sony Music Japan.

Giant electronics, Sony’s biggest business by far, saw flat to slightly down sales of $14.7 billion. Operating income fell 23% to $479 million.

Games posted a 23% revenue drop to $2.74 billion and a 37% plunge in operating profit to $433 million. A falloff in hardware revenue more than offset a boost in software sales.

Last week, Sony revised downward its forecast for revenue and operating profit for the full fiscal year ending March 31.