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Sony’s Pictures Division Virtually Breaks Even in First Quarter

Sony’s Pictures Division virtually broke even in its first financial quarter from April to June, arresting a trend in which the unit usually makes a loss in its opening three months. The division posted a statistically marginal profit of $3 million, or less than 0.2%, on revenue of $1.7 billion.

Still, it was an improvement compared to the loss of $69 million on revenue of $1.59 billion in the same period of the 2018-19 financial year. The pictures division went on to post a full-year operating profit in 2018-19 of $489 million, which it is forecasting will rise to $590 million this year.

Overall, the giant Sony group enjoyed revenues of $17.5 billion (an unchanged JPY1.93 trillion) and achieved net profits of $1.38 billion (JPY152 billion.) Earnings per share were reported as $1.08 (JPY119.22), which comfortably exceeded a consensus forecast of $0.79 per share by financial analysts.

Compared with a very weak first quarter in 2018-19, when theatrical revenues were worth just $34 million, the April-to-June period this time included $280 million of global box office from “Men in Black: International,” “The Intruder” and “Brightburn.” There was also higher revenue from TV content sales, and lower sports costs and marketing costs in India.

The music division saw revenues increase in the quarter from $1.65 billion (JPY181 billion) to $1.84 billion (JPY202 billion). Operating profits from music rose from $292 million (JPY32.1 billion) to $348 million (JPY38.3 billion). Sony said that it enjoyed higher music-publishing revenues following the consolidation of EMI and higher sales for recorded music because of an increase in streaming. These gains were partially offset by lower visual media and platform sales “primarily due to lower sales for Fate/Grand Order, a game application for mobile devices.”

Sales and operating profits dropped at the games and network services division, where there was a “decrease in contribution from highly-profitable first-party software titles,” but higher PS4 hardware sales. Revenues were down 3% to $4.16 billion (JPY458 billion). Operating income fell from $759 million (JPY83.5 billion) to $670 million (JPY73.8 billion).

For the full 2018-19 financial year to March, Sony produced a record-breaking net profit of $8.26 billion (JPY916 billion), on revenues of $78.1 billion (JPY8.66 trillion).

For the current year, running to March 2020, Sony had previously issued guidance pointing to group-wide revenue rising by just 2% to JPY8.8 trillion, and net income falling by 45% to JPY500 billion. After publishing the first quarter results, the group trimmed its revenue projection to show a nominal decrease, but left the overall profit estimate unchanged.

For the Pictures Division, the group is forecasting a full-year increase in operating profits to JPY65 billion, or $590 million at current exchange rates. With a July release, none of the revenue from “Spider-Man: Far From Home” appeared in the first quarter results. The film has now grossed $1.04 billion worldwide, overtaking “Jumanji” on Sony’s hit list. The Quentin Tarantino-directed “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” has also opened strongly with $41.1 million to date in North America.

For music, the full-year forecast was also left unchanged, at revenues of JPY830 billion ($7.55 billion) and operating profits of JPY135 billion ($1.22 billion). For the games division, Sony trimmed its revenue forecast by 4%, but left its full-year operating profits forecast unchanged at JPY280 billion ($2.45 billion).

In June, Sony received notice of a corporate breakup proposal by activist investor Daniel Loeb and his Third Point Fund, which has amassed a $1.5 billion stake and called Sony one of the most undervalued large-cap stocks in the world. In a sharply different approach from his 2013 assault on the company, when he proposed the disposal of the entertainment businesses, this time Loeb wants Sony to keep entertainment and sell off its semiconductor activities. (Third Point is a shareholder in Variety, alongside Penske Media Corporation.)

“It is true that we have received proposals about our business portfolio. Such proposals are examined carefully, in depth and seriously. We are currently examining them in depth,” said senior executive VP and Sony CFO, Hiroki Totoki,” on a conference call, in response to questions from financial analysts. Earlier during the call he described image sensors as “a pillar of the group.”

Sony’s stock finished trading in Tokyo on Tuesday at JPY5,859 per share, barely changed ahead of the results announcement. The price is up 13% since June 1, when the shares stood at JPY5,168 apiece.

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