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Sony earnings show PlayStation performing well as Xperia drags

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Sony just posted its earnings for the 2015 financial year; the company's revenue was down 1.3 percent to ¥8.1 trillion (about $71.7 billion), but net profit grew 666.7 percent to ¥304.5 billion ($2.7 billion) and operating profit was up 329 percent to ¥294.2 billion ($2.6 billion). The company says the revenue dip was largely down to a major decline in smartphone sales, partially offset by the PlayStation division.

Here are highlights from some of Sony's various units:

  • The Xperia mobile division continues to drag on Sony's bottom line, making an operating loss of ¥61.4 billion ($544 million) — that's 57.4 percent bigger than the company predicted a year ago. Revenue dipped 20 percent on last year, which Sony explains as being partly down to "a strategic decision not to pursue scale in order to improve profitability." While the operating loss was much lower than last year's ¥217.6 billion, that figure included a ¥176 billion impairment charge; it's not at all clear how Sony ever expects to find profitability in this segment.
  • The games division is clearly Sony's star unit at this point, with an 84.3 percent increase in operating income to ¥88.7 billion ($785 million) and an 11.8 percent improvement in sales. Sony says that better PlayStation software and hardware sales are both contributing, and this is only likely to get better for the company — PlayStation VR hits later this year and will be almost an entire new platform in itself, while there are rumors of upgraded PS4 hardware on the horizon.
  • Sales were basically flat in the camera division, dipping 1.7 percent to ¥711.2 billion ($6.29 billion). Sony says the market is contracting across all categories of digital and video camera, but has managed to largely offset this by focusing on premium models. Operating profit is up 72.7 percent to ¥72.1 billion yen ($638 million).
  • Much the same can be said for the home entertainment and sound division: Sony sees an overall market contraction for TV and home audio products and sales were down 6.4 percent, but operating income still improved 109.8 percent to ¥50.6 billion ($447 million) because of a shift to higher-end LCD TV models.
  • The devices unit, which handles things like image sensors, batteries, recording media, took an alarming dip to an operating loss of ¥28.6 billion ($253 million) after posting an ¥89 billion profit last year. A ¥59.6 billion ($528 million) impairment charge is partly responsible, with Sony expecting diminished demand for its mobile camera modules. Sony has supplied the likes of Apple and Samsung with its mobile cameras in the past — it sounds like the company may have lost a major client, but there's no word on who.

Where the company goes from here is less clear. A week ago Sony had to revise its operating profit forecast for last year down from ¥320 billion to ¥290 billion; this was largely due to the impairment charge recorded after the company projected decreased demand for camera modules, one of its most important businesses over the past few years.

As for the 2016 fiscal year that just started this month, Sony postponed its forecast until May because it needs to assess damage caused by the recent severe earthquakes in Kumamoto prefecture. Sony has significant semiconductor operations in the area, including a facility that serves as its primary manufacturing location for digital camera sensors. The company also works with local component suppliers that suffered additional damage.