Sony boosts forecasts as profits smash estimates
Sony raised its annual operating income outlook by 34% after reporting stronger-than-expected holiday-quarter earnings, banking on a rebound in gaming and smartphone sales.
The Tokyo-based company now expects to make 940 billion yen ($8.9 billion) in the fiscal year ending March, up from 700 billion previously. It's expecting a pickup in divisions spanning pictures, music and games as well as its imaging unit providing camera sensors for Apple iPhones and other devices.
Sony launched its latest PlayStation 5 console in the period and sold 4.5 million units despite production challenges limiting its availability. It also added 1.5 million PlayStation Plus subscribers, taking it to 47.4 million. The subscriber growth and software sales helped Sony beat all analyst estimates with 359.2 billion yen in operating profit for the quarter ended December.
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Sony is on track to meet its goal of surpassing the preceding PlayStation 4's 7.6 million sales by the end of March, said Morningstar Research analyst Kazunori Ito. “In addition to boosting hardware supply, Sony should make a bunch of PlayStation 5 games ready in the next fiscal year to push PS4 owners to move over to the new system.”
The PlayStation business is Sony's top contributor and Chief Executive Officer Kenichiro Yoshida has told other units of the group that they should follow the same path in building a recurring revenue model. The company registered record subscriber numbers for its PlayStation Plus service in 2020 on the strength of stay-at-home entertainment demand.
What Bloomberg intelligence says
“Digital downloads accounted for about half of full-game sales in 2019 and 55-60% in 2020 and may continue to gain until it approaches the 90%+ of PC games, though the pace of gains may slow from the five points per year shift experienced pre-Covid," said analysts.
Further subscriber growth for Sony's services is limited, however, as most of the potential audience of gamers who'd consider joining may already be signed up, Nomura Securities analyst Yu Okazaki said before results were released. Signaling the importance of those digital subscribers to Sony's bottom line, he expects the company's operating profit from the game unit to be roughly flat for the next few years.
“Sony's recurring business model is targeting a niche market of enthusiastic fans and thus its new member sign-up pace is likely to slow down,” Okazaki said.