Japan's Quake-hit Electronics Firms Slide into Red

Sony, Panasonic, Fujitsu and Sharp slumped to losses.

Weaker sales and a strong yen pushed down profit forecasts for Japan's electronics giants Sony, Panasonic, Fujitsu and Sharp slumped to losses in a quarter that saw companies scramble to restore production facilities and component supply chains to revive halted output after the disasters that left 20,000 dead or missing.

While Japanese firms, particularly automakers, have staged a quicker-than-expected recovery from the disasters, the rise of the yen amid anxiety over U.S. and European debt threatens to erode exporters' earnings.

Nintendo, under intense pressure from the growing smartphone gaming space, slumped to a 25.5 billion yen (US$$327.9 million) quarterly loss, drastically cut its profit forecast and slashed the price of its 3DS console by 40% less than six months after its launch.

Sony, which is also reeling from a massive data breach on its online networks, revised down a May forecast for its annual net profit by 25% due to weak TV sales, also citing the rise of the yen versus the beleaguered euro. Chief Financial Officer Masaru Kato said the TV business -- a long-time laggard -- suffered from economic weakness in the US and Europe, exposing the company to foreign exchange pressures in highly competitive markets.

"The euro is still an issue for us," he said, adding that Sony would continue trying to move more operations out of Japan, where possible, as part of a 20-year trend. Its shares are trading at their lowest levels since March 2009.

Sony slipped to a 15.5 billion yen ($191 million) net loss in April-June, the quarter in which it was also hit by hacking attacks that compromised 100 million accounts on its PlayStation and other networks. The figure compared to a 25.7 billion yen profit in the same period a year ago.

The Tokyo-based maker of PlayStation consoles and Bravia television sets was forced to shutter plants in Japan after the March quake and tsunami disaster battered supply chains, damaged facilities and dampened consumer demand. It lowered its May forecast for an 80 billion yen net profit in the current fiscal year ending March 2012 to 60 billion yen.

Osaka-based Panasonic left unchanged its annual forecast issued in June, still expecting to post a net profit of 30 billion yen this fiscal year to March 2012, down from 74 billion yen a year earlier. But the firm, which is looking to streamline its business by reducing staff numbers and sell off appliance makers held by subsidiary Sanyo, swung to a net loss of 30.4 billion yen in April-June compared with a net profit of 43.7 billion yen a year earlier.

Sharp Corp. said it suffered a 49.3 billion yen loss for the three months compared with a net profit of 10.7 billion yen a year earlier.

Fujitsu, which provides information technology services and also makes computers and cellphones, booked a net loss of 20.4 billion yen, a sharp drop from net profit of 1.6 billion yen in the same period last year. Sales and profits fell "mainly due to earthquake-related delays to contracts, deliveries and the procurement of certain parts and components," Fujitsu said.
The company said the strong yen reduced sales by 17 billion yen, despite dollar-denominated profit increases in the U.S. market.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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