Sony Corp <6758.T> reported its first profit in five quarters on Thursday, helped by a recovery in its flat TV operations, and the Japanese electronics maker cut its annual loss forecast closer to market expectations.
The maker of Cyber-shot digital cameras shed jobs and shut plants following the global economic downturn and has been able to shore up the profitability of its ailing flat TV division.
To further boost its competitiveness, Sony, which trails Canon Inc <7751.T> in cameras and Samsung Electronics Co <005930.KS> in TVs, plans to launch a new content distribution service and 3D TVs this year.
For the full year to March 31, Sony cut its operating loss forecast to 30 billion yen ($330 million) from 60 billion yen. The new outlook compares with a 227.78 billion yen loss last business year and beats a consensus for a 38.3 billion yen loss in a poll of 19 analysts by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Sony has suffered a long downturn because the strong yen weakened its pricing competitiveness, and it has been complacent over its brand power, said Park Hyun, an analyst at Prudential Investment and Securities in Seoul.
The yen's strength seems to be easing a bit, and it may help Sony to rebound if the weakness proceeds. For products, Sony can catch up with Samsung in premium light emitting diode (LED) TVs. It is betting on 3D TVs too, but it's more like a potential at this stage.
Sony has also been struggling to compete with Nintendo Co Ltd <7974.OS> in videogames but last year it launched a lower-priced version of its PlayStation 3 game console, stirring up demand in the critical holiday season.
The company, led by chief executive Howard Stringer, posted an operating profit of 146.1 billion yen for October-December, against a loss of 17.96 billion yen a year earlier.
Sony shares closed down 2.2 percent at 3,075 yen ahead of the results, underperforming the Tokyo stock market's electrical machinery index <.IELEC.T>, which fell 1.3 percent.
Sony shares have gained 18 percent over the past three months, while the subindex put on 8 percent.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Anshuman Daga and Michael Watson)