Hard Times

Hey buddy, can you spare a nickel? Better yet, how about $700 billion? Everyone is feeling the pain these days, even Sony Corporation.

The electronics giant issued a revised earnings report, and the news was not good. Consumer demand is slowing so sales are off. An unfavorable dollar/yen thing (the dollar hit a 13-year low against the yen today) means Sony's products cost more in the U.S. Plus, Sony's investments in Japanese equities have taken a tumble (join the club).

Adding insult to injury, the South Korean won ("won" is their currency, aka, "?") has weakened by 31% this year, so products from competitors such as Samsung and LG are now cheaper in the U.S. As a result of all that, Sony cut its yearly profit outlook by 38%. In particular, Sony's profit estimates — $2.4 billion in July — have now been cut to $1.5 billion.

According to Forbes magazine, things look bad at Sony, and things may be even worse than they seem . . .

Sony warned that "market fluctuations could further negatively impact the revised forecast" because the company stopped accounting for the slide in Japanese stocks after Oct. 1. Its guidance also included a one-time boost of $102 million from an acquisition; it effectively partially masked the extent of the company's troubles. One Tokyo analyst said, "Even the slightest decrease in demand will trigger a massive price war. We're seeing the beginning of that price war. It will last much longer." The analyst added, "This is just the beginning of a big earnings collapse. Given the track record of this company, it will under-deliver all the way." He added that there's a "good chance" Sony will post a loss this year.

If Sony is a bellweather for the rest of the consumer electronics industry, it's going to be tough sledding this winter. —Ken C. Pohlmann