Sony Corporation's (SNE) Q4 2015 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

| About: Sony Corporation (SNE)

Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE)

Q4 2015 Results Earnings Conference Call

April 28, 2016, 09:00 AM ET


Justin Hill - General Manager of IR

Kenichiro Yoshida - Executive Deputy President and CFO

Kazuhiko Takeda - Corporate Executive, Corporate Planning, Control and Accounting

Atsuko Murakami - Vice President, Senior General Manager, Finance Department

Steven Kober - EVP and CFO, Sony Corporation, North America


John Litschke - TIAA


Welcome to the Sony Corporation Conference Call for Overseas Investors for the Fiscal Year Ended March 31, 2016. My name is John, and I will be your operator for today's call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. Please note that this conference is being recorded.

I will now turn the call over to your host, Justin Hill.

Justin Hill

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. Thank you all for joining us today, April 28, 2016 for a discussion of Sony's results for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2016. We hope you enjoyed our whole music songs from the Arc of Life by Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Stott.

I am Justin Hill, General Manager of Investor Relations at Sony Corporation. Tonight, here in Tokyo, I am joined by Kenichiro Yoshida, Executive Deputy President and CFO of Sony Corporation; Kazuhiko Takeda; Kazuhiko Takeda, Corporate Executive, Corporate Planning and Control and Accounting; Atsuko Murakami, Vice President, Senior General Manager, Finance Department; and Steven Kober, Executive Vice President and CFO, Sony Corporation, North America.

In just a few moments, Yoshida-san will make some short remarks, then Takeda-san will provide you an explanation of our results and forecast. After that, we will take your questions.

Please be aware that during the following remarks and Q&A, statements made 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

Let me remind you that a webcast replay of the investor meetings, which we held earlier today along with the slides presented at that meeting and our detailed earnings release, are available on our website for your access. From this quarter we have also made available on the website, a written translation of the speech, Yoshida-san made in Japanese at that Investor meeting earlier today.

I will now turn things over to Yoshida-san.

Kenichiro Yoshida

Thank you, Justin.

Today I want to speak for a few minutes about three topics. First, the impact of the earthquakes in Kumamoto. Second, the reason why we have not issued forecast for our five electronic segments today. Third, is a summary of our consolidated results for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2016. I would ask Takeda-san to explain the results and forecast for our business segment.

First, let me say that we extend our deepest sympathies to all those affected by the earthquakes in Kumamoto and Oita. Although some of Sony's employees and their families are living in evacuation centers, we have confirmed the safety of everyone.

Sony has four semiconductor manufacturing facilities in Kyusyu. Immediately following the earthquakes, we temporarily suspended operations at three of them, but we quickly restarted production at two of the three. Currently one of the four facilities has yet to restart operations, Kumamoto Technology Center or Kumamoto TEC.

Kumamoto TEC is extremely close to the epicenter of the - the largest earthquake that happened on April 16. It is a primary manufacturing site for image sensors for digital cameras and security cameras, as well as for the micro displays that go into projectors.

Kumamoto TEC has a bilayer structure with clean rooms in each layer. The clean rooms in the lower layer contain our wafer processing equipment and the clean rooms in the upper layer contain our testing equipment, camera module production equipment and other equipment.

The clean rooms in the lower layer, and the production treatment inside these clean rooms have not sustained significant damage. Since yesterday we have begun to start‐up the equipment in those clean rooms, and we expect to resume production in these rooms around the end of May.

On the other hand, the upper layer clean rooms did sustain damage and we are not able to say yet when we will restart operations. Damage to Kumamoto TEC's finished goods inventory is limited, and we are currently inspecting the status of its work‐in‐ progress inventory.

In the Devices segment, we expect there to be direct physical damage to Kumamoto TEC, and we expect to incur expenses primarily for recovery and reinforcement work. In addition, there is a possibility that large opportunity losses will be incurred, mainly in the Devices and Imaging Products & Solutions segments due to suspension of production at Kumamoto for a certain period of time.

Further, there is a possibility that the results of the Mobile Communications, Game & Network Services and Home Entertainment & Sound segments will be adversely affected by the suspension of production at Kumamoto TEC and by the possibility that the supply of components might be interrupted due to the fact that certain vendors are located in the earthquake zone.

Since this is the case, we have decided to postpone today's announcement of the forecast for the five Electronics segments and for consolidated results.

The last point I want to make about the earthquake pertains to insurance. Although Sony does have earthquake insurance that covers such things as direct physical damage and opportunity losses from lost sales, the maximum amount of compensation we can receive after our deductible is ¥20 billion, and there is a possibility that this amount will not cover the full amount of losses from the earthquakes.

Before turning to our result for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2016, I want to emphasize the fact that we are working to assess as quickly as possible the impact of the earthquakes on Kumamoto TEC and our suppliers, while we are simultaneously working to minimize the negative impact on our business.

We are currently creating a schedule to assess the impact on our results and, as of now, we believe it will be possible to inform you of our forecast for the five Electronics segments and consolidated results around May 24.

Turning to the actual results for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2016, I’m pleased to report that we recorded ¥294.2 billion in consolidated operating income which was 4.2 times as high as the previous fiscal year.

Net income attributable to Sony Corporation's stockholders was ¥147.8 billion. This is the first time that we recorded net income in three years, since the fiscal year ended March 31, 2013 when we recorded ¥41.5 billion due to approximately ¥280 billion in one‐time gains and if we exclude that year, this is the first time we recorded net income in 8 years. This is also the first time in 5 years that we recorded operating income for the total of the five Electronics segments.

I will now ask Takeda-san to explain the result and forecast for each segment.

Kazuhiko Takeda

Thank you, Yoshida-san.

First is the Mobile Communications segment. During fiscal year '15, segment sales decreased 20% year‐on‐year and operating loss was ¥61.4 billion. Compared to the previous fiscal year, operating loss decreased ¥156.1 billion.

Our restructuring efforts have exceeded the targets we initially set, and we were able to reduce our operating expenses in fiscal year '15 by approximately ¥80 billion compared with the fiscal year '14. Headcount at Sony Mobile has decreased from approximately 7,100 people as of October 2014 to approximately 4,500 people as of April 2016.

Looking forward to fiscal year '16, our target is to record a profit. A portion of the image sensors used in our smartphones and a portion of camera modules used in our smartphones are made at Kumamoto TEC and there is a possibility that the status of these production lines might have an adverse impact on the results of this business.

Next is the Game & Network Services segment. Both sales and operating income of the segment significantly increased year‐on‐year due to the strong momentum of PS4. Operating income was ¥88.7 billion. Also, network sales increased by more than 50% year‐on‐year.

In fiscal year '16, we expect the strong momentum of the PS4 to continue. However, due to the impact of the earthquakes, there is a possibility that the supply of components from certain vendors might be affected, but even with that impact, at this point in time, we think that, in fiscal year '16, we can exceed the 17.7 million units of PS4 hardware that we sold in the previous fiscal year.

Currently, we are considering a variety of ways to minimize the impact of the earthquake on the results of this business.

Next is the Imaging Products & Solutions segment. In fiscal year '15, sales decreased, but operating income increased year‐on‐year to ¥72.1 billion. We succeeded in shifting to high value‐added models at a time when the camera market shrank. Operating income increased significantly by ¥30.4 billion, year‐on‐year.

Relatively, many of the products in this segment have been adversely impacted by the suspension of production of components at Kumamoto TEC. As a result, we are unable to provide a forecast for this segment at this time.

Next is Home Entertainment & Sound segment. In fiscal year '15, sales decreased, but operating income increased year‐on‐year to ¥50.6 billion. The operating income of the television business, which is included in this segment, was ¥25.8 billion for the fiscal year.

The strong result of this segment are attributable to a shift to high value‐added models and improvements in operations, including at sales companies, made over the last several years.

As we look forward to fiscal year '16, there is a possibility that the supply of components from vendors for certain models of Blu‐ray recorders will be affected due to the impact of the earthquakes. We expect the impact of the earthquakes on the production and sales of TVs to be negligible.

Next is Devices segment. An operating loss of ¥28.6 billion was recorded in fiscal year '15, significant deterioration of ¥117.6 billion compared to the previous fiscal year. As we announced last week, we recorded ¥59.6 billion impairment charge against fixed assets in the camera module business in the fourth quarter.

We first entered the camera module business in the later part of fiscal year '13. However, our ramp in manufacturing has been slower than expected, and we recorded a large impairment charges as a result.

We thought that we could increase yields and profit margins through automation of the assembly process. But, precisely because we did increase automation, we have limited ability to adapt to changes in specifications and demand. Currently, we are re‐considering the optimal size of this business.

In the battery business, which is also contained in devices segment, we recorded large impairment charges in both fiscal year '13 and fiscal year '15. The basic performance of our smartphone batteries was below that of our competitors.

Going forward, we expect to accelerate the shift to high‐power liquid type batteries, where we were more competitive, and will continue to work to improve the functionality of our smartphone batteries.

In the image sensor business, which account for the majority of sales and profit in the devices segment, we are currently expanding our sales efforts, primarily to Chinese smartphone manufacturers, and orders are strong, but demand is not expected to recover in earnest until the second half of the fiscal year '16.

As Yoshida-san mentioned, we are not yet able to formulate or forecast for the devices segment for fiscal year '16 because of the impact of the earthquakes.

Next is the Pictures segment. Sales increased and operating income decreased for fiscal year '15 year‐on‐year and operating income was ¥38.5 billion.

For fiscal year '16, we expect higher sales and operating income. On the three categories in this business, the biggest challenge is the Motion Pictures business. We regard fiscal year '16 as a transition year during which the turnaround of this business will be conducted under the new management team which started in spring of last year.

Next is the Music segment. Sales and operating income for fiscal year '15 increased year‐on‐year, and ¥87.3 billion in operating income was recorded. We recently announced our decision to make Sony/ATV, our music publishing business, into a wholly‐owned subsidiary by acquiring our joint venture partner's stake. Music publishing is one of our recurring revenue businesses, and this strategic investment was aimed at enhancing that part of our business.

We expect to record ¥63 billion in operating income in fiscal year '16. Operating income is expected to decrease year‐on‐year, but this is because we measurement gain the prior year, fiscal year '16 is expected to be negatively impacted by appreciation of yen and the segment has a larger allocation of corporate and other costs down the prior year.

Next is the Financial Services segment. For fiscal year '15, sales and operating income decreased year‐on‐year. ¥156.5 billion of operating income was recorded, a decrease of ¥36.8 billion year‐on‐year.

The decrease in operating income was mainly due to the decline in the long term interest rates and a decline in Japanese stock market. We expect to record ¥150 billion in operating income in fiscal year '16. We believe that the underlying operations of Sony Life are strong because new policies are continuing to increase.

With that, I would turn things back over to Justin.

Justin Hill

Thank you very much, Yoshida-san and Takeda-san. I'm now going to turn things over to John, so we can begin the Q&A session. John, would you please queue up the questions?

Question-and-Answer Session


[Operator Instructions] And our first question is from [indiscernible].

Unidentified Analyst

Hi. Could you just for purposes of clarification, the impairment charges were - I gathered the way the accounting works included in the operating income. Could you perhaps give us a total in yen of how much varies impairment charges were last year?

Kenichiro Yoshida

Yes, thank you for asking. Total impairment charge included in operating income in last fiscal year was ¥90 billion. That consists of battery business and camera module business. Thank you.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay. Now - and then in the game business, the network services, the revenue was up 50% last year. This businesses, I understand it you spend a lot of money on servers and then you collect the revenues overtime. So there is a very high incremental margin on incremental revenue.

Are we in this business still at the period where the capital spending has peaked and are we looking at revenue growth anywhere near that or is the business so good that we’re going to have to have more CapEx in order to serve the future demand.

Justin Hill

Just to confirm, you’re asking if we’ve gotten to the point where revenue growth is exceeding the amount of investment in the business?

Unidentified Analyst

Yes, that's correct.

Kenichiro Yoshida

As per the capital spending for the network size business that will not - in proportion to the first growth over the portion of the capital investment compared to the growth reduced in the future. Thank you.

Unidentified Analyst

Great. Thanks a lot.


And we have a question from John Litschke from TIAA.

John Litschke

Hi, guys. Just a quick question, seamless. You mentioned that orders are strong. Could you provide me more details on the - if that primarily is for smartphone across the board and Kumamoto TEC doesn’t seem to have much impact to the smartphone supply chain with seamless.

So familiar with orders or related to smartphone, just wondering are you seeing any concerns there, any cancellations or your market positioning in that space, any risk there? Thanks.

Justin Hill

So John just to confirm, you're interested in how our - providing additional orders - any additional color on the orders that we can get in for our imaging sensor business and then what the impact is the Kumamoto TEC suspension in operations we're having - did you say smartphones in particular?

John Litschke

Yes. I don't think Kumamoto really has much impact but wanted to confirm that and your positioning in the market is that intact?

Kenichiro Yoshida

Thank you for the question. You may know Kumamoto mainly for the image sensor for all your vision like digital camera. And so our major supply chain of the smartphone image sensor is Nagasaki, as well as [indiscernible].

So we have no negative impact from the current suspension of Kumamoto TEC. Thank you.

John Litschke

Can you comment on the order situation? You mentioned that orders were strong and you are expecting the second half -

Kenichiro Yoshida

Currently we are getting good order from the customers, in fact manufacturers in China. At the same time, last year - we lost some major customers because due to the supply constraint. So for the first half acquisition of new customer and those last customer is actually offset – first half of the fiscal year.

So thus far we are showing that we can see the expansion of sales in earliest in the second half of fiscal.

John Litschke

Okay. And on the current space, wide of the anticipation for virtual reality offering there, I believe you opened the pre orders in the U.S. can you talk about any of the initial interest in PSVR, maybe what the retail channel is thinking, I know it's still early in the year.

And then as far as you preparations in the supply chain for production of the product. How is that going and if demand is extremely strong are you worried about any supply limitation?

Justin Hill

So John that was two questions, I’ll take the first was on the status of preorder for VR. And the second was about supply chain for VR do we anticipate any kind of limitations on our ability to supply the market?

John Litschke

That’s right.

Kenichiro Yoshida

I have seen quite positive reaction in United States. However the quantity is quite limited. So anyway that is not the big number.

As for the separation constraint does not significant separation constraint. However, we are currently planning not large number of real units this fiscal year because this is year of the start up of the VR, its credit for our customers.

So anyway, we doesn't know big negative separation constraints - concerns. Thank you.

John Litschke

And my last question if I may rather guidance would help, could we talk about the Pictures segment. Could you provide a little bit more granular update on the sub-segment, how those are each going in TV network and film.

Steven Kober

This is Steve Kober, let me respond to that question. As we've told you over the last year, we changed management in the Motion Pictures decision. So last fiscal year and in the upcoming fiscal year we're rebuilding on Motion Pictures side.

On the positive side, television had another excellent year as you can see from the results that continues to do very well it's also very strong in the fourth quarter, so that’s doing well. The media networks we have a lot of channels all over the world. India is the biggest market and that continues to do well. And we expect growth next year in the media networks business as well.

John Litschke

Okay, excellent.


[Operator Instructions] And I will now turn the call back over to Justin for any final remarks.

Justin Hill

Thanks very much John. Quickly out of questions. So we are going to end the call here. Thank you all for participating and I encourage you to call the Investor Relations offices in Tokyo, London and New York if you have any follow-up questions. Thank you very much. Good night.


Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today's conference. Thank you for participating. And you may now disconnect.

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