Japan's top consumer electronic firms recovered faster than expected from March's earthquake, allowing most of them to maintain full-year profit forecasts despite a weakening TV market and concerns about the outlook for the global economy.
Video game maker Nintendo Co was a standout disappointment as it unexpectedly swung to a quarterly operating loss, hit by sluggish sales of its 3DS handheld game player and a strong yen. It also slashed its full-year forecast to far below market expectations.
Sony Corp and Panasonic Corp warned of weak TV sales, following Philips and Corning Inc in highlighting sluggish demand.
Global consumer confidence fell in the second quarter to its lowest level in 18 months as an uncertain economic outlook, a deepening euro zone debt crisis and rising inflation made people cautious, a Nielsen survey showed.
Sony, Panasonic and many other Japanese tech firms are still hoping they can swing to profits in the rest of the calendar year, Said Derek Lin, manager of the Asia-Pacific Fund of Uni-President Asset Management in Taipei.
The worst of their stock price declines is over, but how far they can come back up depends on demand from U.S. and European markets.
Over the past several years, Japanese companies have increasingly lost market share in televisions, flat screens and chips to South Korean companies such as Samsung Electronics and LG Display, partly helped by heavy investments and faster execution under family controlled groups.
Most Japanese electronics conglomerates have forecast earnings for the year to March 2012 to stay flat or show a small decline from a year ago, underscoring a strong comeback from the disaster-related production difficulties in Japan.
However, doubts about the prospects for the rest of the year are creeping due to the yen's renewed rise against the dollar and the euro, which has been fueled by jitters about government debt.
WEAK LCD TVS
Sony, the maker of Bravia TVs and PlayStation game consoles slashed its annual forecast for LCD TVs to 22 million sets from 27 million. Only a better-than-anticipated performance by other units including digital cameras kept the company from cutting its profit outlook.
The LCD market itself is becoming weaker, so it is not that surprising that it had to reduce its LCD television sales forecast, said Shigeo Sugawara, senior investment manager at Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Asset Management. What it plans to do with this division is vital, he said.
At a news conference in Tokyo, Panasonic's chief financial officer, Makoto Uenoyama, said the company may not stick to its annual flat-panel TV sales forecast of 25 million units.
The first quarter post quake slump at Panasonic Corp and Sharp Corp was precipitous, but they too beat analysts' consensus estimates and also stuck with estimates made in the wake of a disaster that closed their factories as parts ran out.
Quarterly operating profit at Sony fell 59 percent to 27.5 billion almost double what analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S forecast. Panasonic's April-June profit fell to 5.6 billion yen from 83.8 billion yen, versus market expectations for a 20 billion yen loss.
Sharp's operating profit was a meager 3.5 billion yen, but that was versus market expectations of a loss of 8.2 billion yen.
Shares in most Japanese technology companies were pummeled by the quake.
Sony left its full-year operating profit outlook unchanged at 200 billion yen, flat on the previous year. Panasonic stuck with 270 billion yen and Sharp kept its 97 billion yen target unchanged.
Toshiba Corp, the world's No.2 maker of flash memory chips, said quarterly operating profit fell 88 percent as the earthquake hit its power operations and a strong yen bit into earnings, and it kept its annual forecast in line with expectations.
(Additional reporting by Faith Hung in TAIPEI, Saeed Azhar in SINGAPORE and Yuko Takeo in TOKYO; Writing by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Lincoln Feast)
(This story was corrected in 5th paragraph to fix Panasonic's operating profit)