Sony Projects First Net Loss in 14 Years

Sony Corp. slashed its annual earnings forecast Thursday, projecting its first net loss in 14 years on slumping sales, a strong yen and restructuring costs.

The last — and only — time Sony reported a loss, for the fiscal year ending March 1995, the red ink came from one-time losses in its movie division, marred by box office flops and lax cost controls.

The Japanese electronics and entertainment company expects to sink into a $1.7 billion loss for the fiscal year through March, a reversal from 369.4 billion yen profit the previous year.

Like other Japanese exporters, Sony is taking a beating from the global slump that has crimped consumer spending during the critical year-end shopping season. The yen's appreciation and a plunge in gadget prices have also taken a toll.

Sony is particularly vulnerable to the strong yen since about 80 percent of its sales come from overseas. The dollar has dropped to below 90 yen recently from as high as 117 yen last year, eroding with it Sony's foreign income.

Later in the day, Chief Executive Howard Stringer was to outline the company's plans at its Tokyo headquarters.

Some of Japan Inc.'s biggest names are getting hammered by the global slowdown. Toyota Motor Corp., which last year dethroned General Motors Corp. as the world's largest automaker, is forecasting its first operating loss in 70 years — although it says it will eke out a small net profit.

Trouble has been brewing at Sony for some time. In October, it lowered its forecast to a $1.7 billion profit, but it said conditions had worsened since then.

Sony said the slowing global economy and price declines were wiping out 250 billion yen in operating profit, while the yen's appreciation took out another 40 billion yen. Restructuing charges cost 30 billion yen. Declining equity value of its affiliates was an extra 20 billion yen loss, it said.

Profitability had worsened at its video game and movies units, as well as with its financial businesses in Japan, including an insurer and Internet bank, it said.

Last month, Sony announced widespread cost cuts, including trimming 8,000 of its 185,000 jobs and shutter five or six plants — about 10 percent of its 57 factories. It also said it was cutting an additional 8,000 temporary workers, who aren't included in the global work force tally.

Sony also plans to reduce its electronics investments by about one-third by the end of March 2010, although it did not give specific numbers.

The moves are expected to deliver more than $1.1 billion in savings a year by March 2010, the company says.

Sony, which makes the Walkman player and PlayStation 3 game machine, had been gradually recovering under earlier cost-cutting reforms spearheaded by Stringer in 2005. A Welsh-born American, Stringer is the first foreigner to head Sony.

The company's stock fell 51 yen, or 2.6 percent, to 1,938 yen. The earnings revision was announced after the market closed.