Sony quarterly profit surges to $871 million

TOKYO: Sony's quarterly earnings surged more than sevenfold, boosted by blockbuster movie releases, cost cuts and its mainstay consumer electronics business returning to the black.

The Japanese manufacturing icon, known for gadgets like its PlayStation 3 game console, Thursday said its net profit for the October-December quarter jumped to 79.2 billion yen ($871 million) from 10.4 billion yen a year earlier.

Sales rose 4 percent to 2.24 trillion yen on robust revenue from movies, personal computers and financial services.

Sony said it benefited from strong worldwide theater releases such as "2012" and "Michael Jackson's This is It," as well as home DVD sales of titles like "Angels & Demons."

Since taking over in 2005, Sony Chief Executive Howard Stringer has been trying to unite the company's sprawling business, improve efficiency and rein in costs.

The maker of Bravis TVs and Cyber-shot cameras credited the ongoing restructuring and better currency exchange rates for driving its consumer products and devices division into the black.

Sony swung to an operating profit, which is generally seen as the best indication of a company's pure business performance, of 146.1 billion yen. The Tokyo-based company booked an operating loss of 18 billion yen a year earlier.

The company's PC business also did well, in large part due to higher sales of Vaio computers.

Overall demand for gaming consoles declined mainly due to lower sales of the PlayStation 2 and PSP portable device. But PlayStation 3 sales jumped more than 40 percent to 6.5 million units during the quarter, Sony said.

Sales of the PlayStation 3 surged to U.S. record in December after a 25 percent price cut ahead of the key holiday shopping season. Until the cut, the console lagged behind its rivals in large part because it came with a bigger price tag.

Sony trimmed its forecast of losses for the fiscal year ending March 2010.

It now expects a net loss of 70 billion yen, a 22 percent improvement from its previous loss forecast of 95 billion yen. It predicts an operating loss of 30 billion yen instead of a 60 billion yen loss it forecast in October.

In trading Thursday, Sony shares fell 2.2 percent to 3,075 yen, while the Nikkei 225 stock index lost 0.5 percent.

Sony reports earnings based on Japanese accounting standards.