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Sony sees red as sales drop 20%

Corp. reports fourth straight quarter of losses

TOKYO — Sony has reported yet another quarter of losses — its fourth straight — though the pain is less than analysts predicted. From July to September, the electronics giant racked up a net loss of 26.3 billion yen ($289 million), compared with a 20.8 billion yen ($228 million) profit the same period the year before.

Meanwhile, sales plunged 20% year-on to 1.66 trillion yen ($18.2 billion), while the strengthening of the yen delivered a 77 billion yen ($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, compared with 2.4 million the same quarter last year.

The picture division reported a 30.4% year-on drop in sales — or 20% on a U.S. dollar basis — to $1,516 million, with both theatrical and home entertainment revenues falling. There was no hit to match “Hancock” from the 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.

Under chairman and CEO Howard Stringer, Sony has moved aggressively to cut costs, including the slashing of 16,000 jobs and the closing of 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 95 billion yen ($1.04 billion), down from the previous prediction of 120 billion yen ($1.32 billion).

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