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Sony (NYSE:SNE)

Q2 2013 Earnings Call

October 31, 2013 9:00 am ET

Executives

Masaru Kato - Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President, Representative Corporate Executive Officer, Director, Member of Compensation Committee and Member of Nominating Committee

Steven E. Kober - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Analysts

Richard Kramer - Arete Research Services LLP

Daniel Ernst - Hudson Square Research, Inc.

Kota Ezawa - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Timothy Lash - Third Point LLC

Operator

Welcome to the Sony Corporation Conference Call for overseas investors for the second quarter ended September 30, 2013. My name is John and I will be your operator for today's call. [Operator Instructions] Please note that the conference is being recorded. And I will now turn the call over to Casey Keister [ph]. Casey, you may begin.

Unknown Executive

Thank you very much for that introduction, John, and thank you all for your joining us today, October 31, 2013, for a discussion of Sony's results for the second quarter ended September 30, 2013. We hope you all have enjoyed John Mayer's Paradise Valley while you were on hold. I'm Casey Keister [ph] in the Investor Relations Department here in Tokyo. And with me on the conference call tonight is Masaru Kato, CFO of Sony Corporation; Steven Kober, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Sony Corporation of America; and Yoshinori Hashitani, VP, Investor Relations at Sony Corporation. Thank you all very much for joining us.

In just a few moments, we will review today's announcement and then we'll be available to answer your questions.

Please be aware that statements made during the following remarks and Q&A session with respect to Sony's current plans, estimates, strategies, press release and other statements that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements about the future performance of Sony. These statements are based on management's assumptions in light of the information currently available to it, and therefore, you should not place undue reliance on them.

Sony cautions you that a number of important factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements. For additional information as to risks and uncertainties, as well as other factors that could cause actual results to differ, please refer to today's press release, which can be accessed by visiting sony.net/IR.

Let me remind you that a webcast replay of the Investor Meeting held earlier today, along with the slides presented at that meeting and our detailed earnings release, are available on our website for your access.

With that, I'm now going to turn to today's announcement.

First, I will begin by explaining the enhanced disclosure that we have undertaken this quarter in an effort to better enable you to value our entertainment businesses. We have enhanced our disclosure in 3 ways.

First, we have established 3 categories in each of the Pictures and Music segment. These categories disclose sales to external customers. The 3 categories in the Picture segment are: Motion Pictures, Television Productions and Media Networks. The 3 categories in the Music segment are: Recorded Music, Music Publishing and Visual Media and Platform.

Second, we have disclosed the depreciation and amortization and the restructuring charges of each segment. This disclosure will be implemented for not only the Pictures and Music segments, but all of our other segments as well. We think this will enable you to calculate adjusted OIBDA.

Third, we have disclosed supplemental information regarding the Entertainment businesses on our website. This information contains items such as the box office revenue of films released during the quarter and the list of upcoming films in the Picture segment, as well as the top 10 best-selling releases and a number of songs in Music Publishing in the Music segment. Moreover, we have disclosed the U.S. dollar sales and operating income of Sony Pictures Entertainment as consolidated by that entity in U.S. dollars. In addition to this disclosure, Sony CEO, Kazuo Hirai and the management of our entertainment businesses, will host an Entertainment Investor Day on November 21 in the U.S. We will also be holding a business briefing for investors in Tokyo on November 26, where the highlights of the U.S. event will be discussed.

I will now touch on the consolidated results for the quarter.

Consolidated sales increased 11% year-on-year to JPY 1,775.5 billion. The significant increase in sales was primarily due to an increase in unit sales of smartphones and the favorable impact of exchange rates. However, sales decreased approximately 9% on a local-currency basis. This was primarily due to the impact of a contraction in the AV/IT market and a slowdown of emerging market economies.

Consolidated operating income decreased JPY 15.5 billion year-on-year to JPY 14.8 billion. The significant decrease was primarily due to a decline in the operating results of the Pictures, Imaging Products & Solutions, and Devices segments. I encourage you to refer to our earnings release for further discussion of the actual results.

Turning now to our forecast for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014, we have revised downward our forecast for consolidated sales to JPY 7,700 billion. This reduction is due to a downward revision in the annual unit sales forecast for several electronics products. Consolidated operating income is expected to be JPY 170 billion, JPY 60 billion below the August forecast. Although the operating income of the Financial Services segment in the second quarter exceeded our previous forecast, the operating income of all of our electronics segment, excluding Game and the Pictures segment, are expected to be below the previous forecast. Net income attributable to Sony Corporation's stockholders is expected to be JPY 30 billion, JPY 20 billion below the August forecast.

I will now touch on each segment's forecast for the rest of the fiscal year. First is Imaging Products & Solutions. Fiscal year sales for this segment are expected to be below the August forecast, primarily due to a downward revision in the annual unit sales forecast of video cameras and digital cameras. However, on a year-on-year basis, sales are expected to be flat. Operating income is expected to be below the August forecast primarily due to the decreased sales. But on a year-on-year basis, operating income is expected to increase significantly.

We have downwardly revised our annual unit sales forecast for digital cameras and video cameras, but we have a highly differentiated line-up of products and we are swiftly adapting to the changes in the market. We are continuing to focus on raising ASPs and improving profitability by enhancing our high-end products, such as the RX series of compact DSCs and the world's first full-size, mirrorless camera, the Alpha 7 series.

In addition, the lens-style QX camera series, which we announced last month, is receiving critical acclaim. This entirely new concept makes possible high-resolution, rich images when combined with smartphones. This product is creating a new market in the digital imaging space.

Next is Game. The outlook for sales and operating income for the Game segment has not changed from the August forecast. Preparations for the introduction of the PlayStation4 are progressing smoothly. The platform will go on sale in the U.S. and Europe in November and demand appears to be quite strong. We expect the PS4 to contribute to profitability at an early stage due to lower hardware costs and diversification of its revenue streams through network services.

Next is Mobile Products & Communications. Although the PC business is under pressure, the smartphone business is performing well and this has led to a significant increase in overall segment sales and a significant improvement in operating results this quarter. Sales for the fiscal year are expected to be below the August forecast, primarily due to a downward revision in the annual unit sales forecast for PCs. But on a year-on-year basis, segment sales are expected to increase significantly.

Segment operating income is expected to be lower than the August forecast due to the lower sales of PCs. But on a year-on-year basis, operating results are expected to improve significantly and we expect to record a profit. Following on the heels of the highly-successful Xperia Z, which went on sale in February, we have launched our new flagship smartphone, the Xperia Z1 in September.

Regarding PCs, the market is expected to contract significantly this fiscal year and the annual unit sales forecast for VAIO has been revised downward from 6.2 million units to 5.8 million units. The operating environment in the PC business continues to be severe and we recognize that it is imperative to work toward fundamentally reforming the structure of this business and we have been working to develop a reform plan.

Next is Home Entertainment & Sound. Sales for the fiscal year are expected to be below the August forecast due to a downward revision in the annual unit sales forecast of LCD TVs from 15 million to 14 million units. However, on a year-on-year basis, sales are expected to increase significantly. Operating income is expected to be lower than the August forecast, primarily due to the lower sales of TV. But on a year-on-year basis, operating income is expected to improve significantly.

This fiscal year, our efforts to reform our profitability structure in TV have progressed and we forecast a significant improvement on operating results for the year. However, primarily due to stagnation of emerging market economies, which we expected to drive growth, and the unfavorable impact of the depreciation of emerging market currencies, the outlook for the full year is more challenging than what we expected in August. Under these circumstances, we will continue to work to turn a profit through measures aimed at improving profitability, including continuous cost reductions and a focus on expanding sales of high value-added models such as 4K televisions during the year-end selling season.

Next is Devices. Sales for the fiscal year are expected to be below the August forecast due to lower-than-expected sales of image sensors. We also expect sales to decrease year-on-year. Operating income is expected to be below the August forecast due to the decrease in sales and we expect operating income to decrease significantly year-on-year.

Next is Pictures. Sales for the fiscal year are expected to be below the August forecast because results in the second quarter were below the August forecast. Nevertheless, year-on-year, we expect sales to increase significantly. Operating income is expected to be below the August forecast due to lower-than-expected results this quarter and we expect operating income to be essentially flat year-on-year.

Although the box office results of some films were below expectations and we recorded a loss in the quarter, Captain Phillips and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 are performing to expectations. Moreover, Television Productions and Media Networks are steadily expanding and we are working to improve profitability by continuing to focus on these growing businesses and by reducing cost throughout this Pictures segment. Although we revised downward slightly our forecast for annual operating income, we do expect this business to contribute the same level of profit as last year.

There is no change to our forecast for the Music segment and we expect Music to continue to contribute stable profit.

In Financial Services, annual operating income is expected to be higher than we expected due to better-than-expected investment performance at Sony Life in the second quarter.

To conclude, although we revised downward our forecast for consolidated sales and operating income due to the challenging environment in our PC, TV, digital still camera, camcorder and Device businesses, news is not all bad. In the core business areas of Mobile, Game and Digital Imaging, the growth drivers for the company, we have made steady progress and we look forward to the strong performance of the products I have described. As we approach the year-end selling season, which is the period in which we generate the most sales, we expect sales of our electronics to increase. And although we have revised downward electronics in aggregate, we expect operating results in electronics to improve significantly over the last fiscal year and we expect to record a profit.

That concludes our review. And now, we'd like to turn it over to you and answer any questions, which you might have. John, would you please queue up the questions?

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] And our first question is from Richard Kramer from Arete Research.

Richard Kramer - Arete Research Services LLP

Two areas of questions please. If we look at cameras, TVs and PCs, all of these categories, as you mentioned, are clearly under pressure or struggling. When would you present to investors the reform plan in PCs that you just mentioned? And at what stage or under what conditions might you consider deeper structural changes in the other 2 businesses, cameras and TVs, given that some of the pressures that you outlined don't seem to be easing into the end of the year? And then my second question is on the Game business. It seems like you're maintaining the expectations for end-of-year sales for the older platforms as well as concurrent with the launch of the new platform. Are you confident that, that's realistic? Or can you outline some of the pricing actions you expect might be needed to sustain the growth of the older platforms, while there's so much attention being drawn to the PS4 launch?

Masaru Kato

Okay, we'll start with the first question. On PC, TVs and cameras talk. Now, on PC, we're in a phase of trying to restructure the business so that we have much better profitability. Now the timeframe for the planning, I cannot give you a definitive date to date when these plans will be announced. But it's not going to be like in 6 months or a year. It's more, I would say, within this fiscal year, within several months, we will come up with a plan, and when the time is right, we will make proper announcements to the market as we feel appropriate. Now on the other categories. Now, camcorders, this is not a simple restructuring program. Now as we have stated all along, Digital Imaging is one of the core areas that we are concentrating on for our future growth and profitability. Now this is quite a broad range of business for us. Yes indeed, the digital still cameras are declining. Some of the customers are shifting towards smartphone, which is a known fact. But our Digital Imaging business are -- has coverage from not just consumer products, but nonconsumer, broadcast equipment, [indiscernible] camera, medical application, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So the actions that we are taking is not a kind of a restructuring type of action plan, but rather reforming the business, shifting resources, engineers, from consumer businesses to other areas, or also within the same consumer business, more towards high-end products like the Alpha 7 cameras that we introduced recently, RX cameras and the lens-style cameras, or the QX series, that we announced. So it's more of shifting resources around so that you could -- we can pursue new growing revenue stream. That's the formula for the camera area. On top of that, if it is necessary, we will reduce cost -- fixed cost overhead where appropriate. But what I want to say, it's not a simple straight line going down the path of restructuring. Now on television, here, I have to admit that our road to breakeven is becoming tougher given the conditions that was explained 5 minutes ago. The third quarter is the critical quarter for us where we have the holiday season. So until we see the results of the third quarter, I don't think it is appropriate to announce any new [indiscernible] at this point. On gaming, the other platforms like PS3 and others, I'm sorry to say, but I cannot touch upon pricing because it has a lot of big impact on competitive moves and et cetera. But in general, Hong Kong saw a market, we have increased our unit forecast because we have added PS4 units onto PS3, the additional units by 5 million, yes. Now what will happen -- yes, that's the reason for the upward revision. And as far as PS3 is concerned, we are quite confident in that this platform still has a lot of, what, size in it. As you can see from this year's catalog of new titles coming out, very exciting titles from both first party and third party. I can name a few titles, but the third party titles, I'm not in a position to comment. But you know what the kind of titles that I'm talking about. And on top of that, PS3 has a life in more -- in the emerging countries. When -- now as the platform matures, we have more software to address these emerging markets. And again, I cannot dwell on pricing in specific terms or timing. But in general, as the platform matures, the prices are reduced so that we can address more customers. That's the basic game plan.

Richard Kramer - Arete Research Services LLP

Okay. And maybe one other very brief question. With the disposal of M3 or a part of your stake in M3, should we anticipate that there are other asset sales that Sony is likely to make just to shore up your cash balances relative to your debt profile?

Masaru Kato

Okay, I cannot -- again, I cannot be specific. But as a general statement, when we made the budget, we have assumed some asset sales into the product plan. Now having said that, I'm going to say that the magnitude of these asset sales is not like the ones that we had last year. Last year, we had facilities, land, businesses, portfolio of stock, et cetera. That amounted to more than JPY 200 billion in terms of our operating profit. This year, I cannot give a number. But the magnitude is much, much smaller. Again, I cannot be too specific on what they are.

Operator

Our next question is from Daniel Ernst from Hudson Square Research.

Daniel Ernst - Hudson Square Research, Inc.

Three questions, if I might. First, on the forecast for the PlayStation4 of essentially 5 million units, can you comment on your confidence over hitting that target and can you clarify, is that production target or a sell-in to retail and distributors? As I recall, in the last cycle, there was a large delta in what you reported as production units versus selling units which impacted your gross margins, so I'm wondering, are we going to have a similar situation here? And then second question on the weakness that you noted in image sensors, can you parse that between image sensors sold into the digital still camera market versus image sensors sold into the smartphone market. Are the 2 diverging i.e., DSC sales are going down but image sales to smartphones continues to be strong, or not? And then, third question, if I might. On the television business, the television production business, or TV studio business, AMC which has been a partner of yours for Breaking Bad, recently acquired, for a $1 billion, Chellomedia from Liberty in order to ensure distribution, higher-margin distribution overseas for their content, which I'm wondering, is there an opportunity for Sony to do things like that and to put more of their own content through their own TV networks? And you gave us an excellent list of all the ones you owned overseas, but I was wondering is there an ability to grow that and grow the margins substantially?

Masaru Kato

Okay. First question was PlayStation. The 5 million unit forecast is on a sell-in basis. Confidence level, well, I cannot give you in terms of numbers, how our -- the confidence level we have at the moment. But when we listen to consumers, when we listen to our retail partners and third parties, one measure of our confidence is in the pre-orders that we have received from the consumers. And I can't give a number. But compared to past platforms, the pre-orders that we have received for this new platform is much, much, much higher. And people have not just listed their names, but in some -- in most cases, put down certain amount of money for these pre-orders. So that is one piece of information that we have in mind when we look towards the launch of this product. The second would be that we have strong support from third parties. And sometimes, when we launch a new platform, the software catalog is not sufficient, or after the launch, sometimes, you don't have good titles following the launch. But this year, on a comparative basis, I think we have a much more stronger lineup of software coming. So those are the things that we are looking at. But I cannot give you a number as to how much upside there is. On the image sensor questions, the -- yes, we have lowered somewhat the forecast for the semiconductor business. And in image sensors, what you said is correct in that it is mainly due to the decline in the digital still cameras. Now this is an industry-wide phenomenon. So since we have a very nice market share in this area, if the market goes down, our sales will be affected. On the smartphone side, this is still a growing market for us.

Steven E. Kober

This is Steve Kober, let me just address the third question on AMC. It has not been our strategy to own channels, rather, we produce programs in the United States. Globally, we have expanded our networks significantly over the past year. As you can see in the supplemental information we handed out, we've listed all the cable channels we own globally and you can see the number of subscribers. In the U.S., we're are not a major channel owner. Our strategy has been to provide programming to all the various networks in the United States, even though we don't own them. And globally, we broadcast product from every studio. So that is not part of our strategy at the present time.

Operator

Our next question is from James Pulford [ph] from Eico [ph] Research.

Unknown Analyst

I've got 2 if I may, please. First of all, the revision down of JPY 60 billion, obviously, there was one in the finance area you revised up your numbers. So the revision down in the remaining 4 areas of IP&S, MP&C, Devices and Pictures was a bit larger. Can you give me some indication of where the largest cuts were made? It sort of sounds from your comments as if in Pictures, for example, the decline was a bit of -- the change was perhaps relatively small. But if you could give me any help on that front, that would be kind. And secondly, I wondered, your movies business, which obviously, made a rather -- a very large loss this quarter. I mean, historically this has always been a rather volatile division. But you've certainly not in recent years had a level of loss of anything like this to scale, and I wondered if there was any -- if there'd been any change over the last few years in the structure of your business at all or whether it's just, if you like, a slightly sort of random event relating purely to the performance of films and sort of timing, or whether something has changed in the nature of the business.

Masaru Kato

The first question, the revision of profit, downward revision of JPY 60 billion. The bulk of this comes from electronics. And within the segments, the larger ones would be HE&S, Home Entertainment & Sound, and IPS, Imaging Products & Solutions, okay? On the movie business, here, it is quite unfortunate that we recorded a huge loss. But there are some logics to it. One which is quite understandable in that some of the major films underperformed at the box office. White House Down, Smurfs 2, we had higher expectations. This is -- this did not materialize. And as a nature of the film business, production costs and advertising costs, which are quite huge, are recognized at the time of release. Now these are subsequently recouped by home entertainment sales and pay TV, et cetera in the following quarters. But if the box office performance is below expectations, the losses upfront would be recognized. So that's one big reason that this quarter was huge. Now the other reason is in the television programming area. The fall television season, we are looking for a very nice season in that we have about 13 new series in the 2013 and '14 television season, and heavy costs were incurred as we began filming the new episodes. So this is kind of a timing issue, recognizing revenue later but incurring production costs upfront. So those are the major reasons that we had a huge loss for this quarter. So is it a random thing? Well, it's a hit-driven business and we try to make this not a volatile business. But from time-to-time, quarter-to-quarter, we do not succeed on every release. So this quarter, was unfortunate that the big ones that we had hoped for did not perform. But this is not a kind of a structural change or any kind of the business model type diversion from the past. Now the -- yes, yes. And for the whole year, we have revised downward the operating profit from Pictures. But this would be the same level of profit that we achieved last year. So I hope we do better. But it's not a total collapse of the business at all.

Unknown Analyst

And can I ask sort of one follow-up, one separate question, please. In the TV area, you had hoped very much to get your TV, move your TV business into the black this year. And it now sounds as if that may be challenging and you're sadly still -- you have made an improvement, but it will still be in the red. Do you think with your current business structure, with the changes that you've made, that it's realistic to hope the TV business will move into the black next year? Or may it be necessary to take further action there?

Masaru Kato

Okay. As I said, it is -- for this year, it is becoming tougher to achieve our goals. But having said that, the critical Christmas season would be a very important factor. Now, if it is necessary, Kazou Hirai, our CEO, has always been saying that if he sees signs that the current business model or the action plans that we are taking to reduce the losses will not result in achieving our objectives, he is willing to take further actions. Now are we at this point? Maybe we have to see how we do in the third quarter. But whatever we do, I mean, next year, we should be in a position to improve on what we are doing this year. But again, next year is still kind of far-off. So I would like to decline to comment too specifically at what we are planning to do next year. But here, over the years, the -- 2 years ago, our losses was about JPY 140 billion. Last year, about JPY 70 billion. And this year, we're trying to achieve breakeven. I have to admit it is becoming tougher, but it's on that trajectory. So I hope we do better this third quarter.

Operator

The next question is from Kota Ezawa from Citigroup.

Kota Ezawa - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

One question on PlayStation. Maybe partially explained already, but on PlayStation4, Kato-san mentioned in Tokyo briefing that the PlayStation4 has more network-related business opportunity. And I'd like to ask the question, Sony has a strategy to distribute linear content on PS4 when it launched like Comcast or DIRECTV-type of broadcasting company? Or just planning to distribute old content like the business model of the Netflix-type of companies? If there any are strategy, basic strategy, on PlayStation4-related non-game content business.

Masaru Kato

Okay. Here, again, I don't have the list of what we have in plan. I am not in a position to comment to -- further on this one. Sony Computer Entertainment I think will provide necessary information as the time comes. But as a general statement, PlayStation4 is a, I would say, aimed to address a wider audience than the past platform. So whatever type of content, whether it be linear or past business model, the download business model, whether it be pay-as-you-play service or a subscription-type business model, we can do all sorts of things on this platform. The key is that to, again, is to build the installed base. So once we have that, I think we are open to consider any type of business model onto this platform so long as it makes sense for us and our business partners.

Operator

Our next question is from Tim Lash from Third Point.

Timothy Lash - Third Point LLC

With respect to the Motion Pictures segment of the Pictures business, was it the subsegment most responsible for the meaningful profit deterioration [indiscernible]?

Masaru Kato

This is in the film area?

Timothy Lash - Third Point LLC

Motion Pictures, yes, it's film. Was it the major driver of losses in the quarter?

Masaru Kato

Yes. The other 2 categories are on a stable path for growth and profitability. So if you take just the second quarter, the Motion Pictures is the cause of the loss. That's for the reasons that I explained.

Timothy Lash - Third Point LLC

Correct. Could you comment at all on the profit potential or profit trajectory in the Media Networks business? Is it a higher margin business relative to the rest of your segments?

Masaru Kato

Basically yes. But Tim, I would like to -- I think you are also coming to our Investor Day on November 21. On that day, I think we have more time to explain the entirety of our business rather than at all -- several minutes on this teleconference [indiscernible] .

Timothy Lash - Third Point LLC

One follow-up on electronics -- on electronics, your semiconductor business, your Devices business is lower than forecast. You've sort of kept your CapEx in line. Any thought to adjusting your capital spending in that unit as the revenue forecasts come down?

Masaru Kato

Okay. Now, we have -- in the semiconductor area, most of the CapEx is in image sensors. We do have other areas, such as logic, LSIs and gaming chipsets. But these areas do not carry big CapEx. And it is image sensors. Here in this image sensors, in the long term, we still see growth. But since we have already made a lot of investment, we do have the manufacturing base for growth in this area. So yes., we will continue to invest in image sensors as necessary but it might not be in the kind of magnitude that we have been doing in the past several years.

Operator

As we are running out of time, I would like to turn the call back over to Casey for closing remarks.

Unknown Executive

Thank you very much, John. We'd like to thank all of you for joining us today to discuss the announcement. Please feel free to contact our London, New York or Tokyo Investor Relations offices if you have any further questions. Thank you, all, for joining us and good night from Tokyo.

Operator

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. This concludes today's conference. Thank you for participating. You may now disconnect.

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