Sony's imaging sensors for cameras and smartphones helped the
electronics manufacturer emerge from years of restructuring
during which it pulled out of low-margin consumer goods to
concentrate on entertainment, videogames and sensors.
But progress stalled when a series of earthquakes in April
caused stoppages in sensor production, leaving the broader
semiconductor division swinging to a second-quarter loss. Sony
said it took almost half a year for shipments to fully recover.
"Demand for (camera) sensors from smartphone manufacturers,
including Chinese players, has been strong," said Chief
Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida at an earnings briefing. "We
are also receiving many inquiries for the next year."
Sony earlier reported operating profit of 45.7 billion yen ($436
million) for July-September, just 1.2 percent shy of a Thomson
Reuters Starmine SmartEstimate drawn from 10 analyst estimates.
Yoshida also said Sony was taking steps toward entering the
automotive market as it seeks to reduce reliance on the volatile
smartphone sector. One such step was automotive parts supplier
Denso Corp deciding to adopt Sony sensors.
"It will take three to five years before shipments of automotive
sensors begin in earnest," he said. "But we are confident that
we will be able to build a solid position in the market."
In videogames, Sony said profit fell 20.5 percent as income
earned abroad was dulled by a strengthening yen.
But investors are betting on momentum in the gaming business to
pick up toward the year-end holiday shopping season with the
launch this month of the PlayStation 4 Pro, an upgrade to its
flagship console capable of rendering high-definition graphics.
Sony is also widely expected to build an early lead in the
fledgling virtual-reality (VR) market, with a headset priced
more modestly than those of rivals and compatible with the 40
million PlayStation 4 consoles it has sold to date.
Sony's earnings report came a day after the manufacturer lowered
its full-year profit forecast by 10 percent to 270 billion yen
due mainly to an impairment charge brought about by the sale of
its battery business.
A 0.7 percent decline in Sony's share price on Tuesday indicated
investors were unfazed by the revision, as Sony had already
flagged the impairment charge and maintained its sales outlook
of 7.4 trillion yen.
($1 = 104.8400 yen)
(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
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