Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the debt rating of both Sony and Panasonic, singling out continued losses from their television divisions as a reason for the change. Citing increased competition, declining device prices, and strong performance of the yen, Moody's lowered Sony's rating from A3 down to Baa1, while Panasonic moved from an A1 to an A2 — both with a negative outlook.
The companies have struggled with their TV businesses as of late, with Panasonic recently cutting flat-panel production by almost 50 percent, and Sony selling its stake in a joint LCD venture with Samsung this past December. Sony expects its television division to incur a yearly operating loss of around ¥175 billion (approximately $2.27 billion) come March, though it hopes to cut that loss in half by the same time next year. The numbers aren't much better for Panasonic, as television losses have been compounded by declining earnings from the company's semiconductor business. Panasonic currently estimates its operating profit will decline to ¥130 billion ($1.69 billion) from the ¥305 billion it reported last year — a whopping 57 percent drop — but Moody's questions if it will be able to hit even that mark.
It's yet another sign that the television industry as we know it is fundamentally changing, no matter what gorgeous new displays we may be seeing on trade show floors. We'll know more when Sony and Panasonic release their official earnings, currently scheduled for February 2nd and 3rd, respectively.