Sony’s annual loss shrinks to $439 million

Sony Corp., maker of the PlayStation 3, stayed in the red last business year but cost cuts and better sales of consumer electronics allowed it to shrink losses and predict a return to profit.

The Tokyo-based company Thursday reported a 40.8 billion yen ($439 million) loss for the year ended March 31, an improvement from the previous year’s 98.9 billion yen loss, which was Sony’s first annual red ink in 14 years.

The electronics and entertainment giant credited LCD televisions and digital cameras for helping drive its recovery. It also cited its life insurance unit, where revenue surged 58 percent.

Sony expects to climb back into the black in the year through March 2011. It forecasts a net profit of 50 billion yen on revenue of 7.6 trillion yen.

Since taking over in 2005, Chief Executive Howard Stringer has been trying to unite the company’s sprawling businesses, improve efficiency and rein in costs. His efforts appear to be paying off, with company leaner and more united as it prepares to launch a big 3-D push this year.

Sony booked 7 percent lower revenue of 7.21 trillion yen ($77.6 billion) last business year. But it bounced back to an operating profit of 31.8 billion yen ($342 million) after a 227.8 billion yen operating loss the previous year.

For the January-March quarter, Sony posted a net loss of 56.6 billion yen ($608 million) on revenue of 1.72 trillion yen ($18.4 billion).

Sony surpassed its cost cut target of 330 billion yen in the year ended March, it said. Procurement costs have declined almost 20 percent, and it has shut 11 plants since December 2008.

It aims to sell 25 million LCD TV units and 15 million PlayStation 3 consoles over the next year. Last year, it sold 15.6 million LCD TVs and 13 million PlayStation 3 units.

In trading Thursday ahead of its earnings release, Sony shares jumped 4.1 percent to 3,165 yen, beating the Nikkei 225 stock average’s 2.2 percent climb.

Sony reports earnings based on Japanese accounting standards.

Associated Press