Sony stock tumbles

Conglom says sales down in current year

NEW YORK — Sony Corp.’s newfound commitment to Hollywood may have come just in time.

As Sony’s pact with MGM awaits final approval from European regulators, the giant Japanese conglom predicted Thursday a steeper-than-expected dip in overall revenue for the current fiscal year as its massive electronics biz stumbles.

Sony’s fiscal year ends March 31.

The company cited slipping sales of DVD players, portable audio players, digital cameras, PCs, chips and other components.

News knocked Sony’s stock down 4.4% to $37.11.

In an unusual event, a high-ranking Sony exec publicly slammed the company’s recent perf and said its spirit of innovation has been “diluted.”

Sony anticipates sales of ¥7.15 trillion ($69.6 billion) — a 5% dip from the year earlier and below the company’s previous $71.5 billion estimate. Sony continues to be squeezed by cheaper Asian rivals like Samsung Electronics. It’s fallen behind companies like Japan’s Sharp in liquid-crystal TVs and Panasonic parent Matsushita in DVD recorders.

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Ken Kutaragi, head of Sony’s videogame unit, surprised reporters with a frank expression of frustration at the lack of cooperation among Sony’s divisions, which, he said, has caused Sony to miss out on potential sales from MP3 players and other gadgets. Most notably, Sony hesitated to introduce a product like Apple’s iPod because the music division was worried about content rights.

Sony’s music players didn’t initially support MP3 files and only played files in Sony format Atrac.

Cooperation is “just starting,” Kutaragi said at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo. “We’re growing up.”

Kutaragi, known as the “father of the PlayStation,” has been seen as a candidate to run Sony eventually.

He said the company is boosting production of the new portable PlayStation to 1 million units per month this spring to keep up with demand.

Sony also lowered its operating profit forecast to $1 billion from an earlier estimate of $1.6 billion. The revised figure is still up 11% from the previous year.

But company said net income will surge 69% to $1.5 billion — well up from the $1.1 billion anticipated — due mostly to lower income tax considerations at its U.S. holdings and favorable foreign exchange rates.

Sony will announce earnings for its fiscal third quarter Thursday.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)