Sony cuts loss to $115 million

Pictures division sales rise 30.1%

Sony slashed its net losses last quarter as a boffo showing for Sony Pictures, some bold moves by new CEO Kazuo Hirai and a weaker yen have stirred newfound ripples of enthusiasm around the giant conglom.

Filmed entertainment revenue surged 30% year-on-year to ¥209 billion, or $2.4 billion, thanks to strong B.O. from “Skyfall” and “Hotel Transylvania.” “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Men in Black 3” boosted home entertainment sales.

Pics helped Sony cut its net loss for the October-December fiscal third quarter significantly — to $115 million from $1.7 billion the same period the previous year.

It was still the eighth straight quarter of losses, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Sony is still forecasting a return to the black for the year with net profit of $213 million.

The yen has been weakening dramatically against the dollar and other currencies since September, and Sony products get cheaper to buy around the world the more it falls. The yen is behind one of the biggest rallies in Sony stock in months. It jumped from $10 to about $15 last month and has stuck there.

The shares closed down 4.36% at $15.13 Thursday.

Plans to sell its New York HQ for $1.1 billion, announced in mid-January, also had investors tipping their hats to Hirai.

Sony said it swung to an operating profit of $496 million for the quarter from a loss of $980 million last year. Revenue grew 6.9% to $21 billion.

In the games segment, sales fell 15% year-on-year to $3 billion with sliding sales of PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable overwhelming the contribution of the Vita handheld, which bowed in December 2011. Sony has lowered its unit sales forecast for portable hardware for the year and expects overall sales to be slightly lower than in fiscal 2011.

Under Hirai, who assumed the top spot in April, Sony has been on a restructuring drive, closing plants and slashing 10,000 jobs. Hirai’s stated goal is to return Sony’s limping television set biz to profitability in the next fiscal year while shifting its product focus toward games, mobile devices and medical devices.

Sony had been hinting that it will unveil a PlayStation 4 console on Feb. 20, but details have not been forthcoming. It has also acquired a stake in game platform operator Gaikai to beef up its online game biz, as users continue to transition away from stand-alone consoles and handhelds to mobile gaming.

Meanwhile, Sony plans to boost profits at Sony Pictures by concentrating film and TV production, acquisition and distribution as well as on launching and buying TV channels in growing world markets, like its June acquisition of a bigger stake in Multi Screen Media of India.