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Leaner but greener

Revs rise amid Sony's streamlining

Sony Corp. narrowed its losses and bumped up revenue last quarter as Howard Stringer continues his efforts to turn the troubled conglom around.

Sony posted operating losses of $532 million on revenue of $15.8 billion for the fourth quarter ended in March. It took a $643 million hit for restructuring as Stringer cuts jobs, closes plants and streamlines Sony’s massive worldwide operations.

Revenue in electronics, Sony’s biggest business and its biggest trouble spot, grew 9%.

After a glum 2005, Sony Pictures Entertainment saw revenue and income rise. Sony cited contributions from its international channels, the extension of a licensing agreement for “Wheel of Fortune” and higher sales from its TV library.

SPE has been hurting from last year’s weak slate that included underperformers “Stealth,” “Zathura” and “The Legend of Zorro.” The movie studio’s expecting better days but has been somewhat in limbo ahead of the highly anticipated release of “The Da Vinci Code” next month, followed by “Open Season” and Bond pic “Casino Royale.”

For the full year, Sony’s operating income rose 67% to $1.6 billion. Revenue rose 4% to $63.9 billion.

Net income dropped a quarter to $1.06 billion.

SPE delivered revenues of $6.38 billion, down 4%, and saw operating income plummet 57% to $234 million.

Games are forecast to deliver a top line sales boost in the current year as the belated PlayStation 3 comes online, but launch costs will push the segment into “significant loss,” Sony said.

Hardware sales were up as Sony sold 14 million units of the PSP handheld device, but software for the PS2 slipped by 12%. Company said that future performance will be boosted by asset sales and by the growing success of its Bravia flat-screen TV sets.

“The electronics and finance businesses have been strong since January, when we raised our forecast, and continued this quarter as well,” chief financial officer Nobuyuki Ohneda said. “But we’re only halfway through a true recovery in our earnings.”

(Jill Goldsmith in New York contributed to this report.)

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