Sony sets sights on two-decade profit high

Sony revenue is expected to grow 5.2 percent to eight trillion yen, backed by strong sales of image sensors which are key components in smartphone cameras

Sony said Friday it is on track to report its highest annual operating profit in 20 years owing to strong sales in its smartphone component business and PlayStation console division.

The once all-conquering company, which has been emerging from a painful restructuring, said it expects its operating profit to hit 500 billion yen ($4.5 billion) in the year to March 2018.

That would be its best figures since a 525.7 billion operating profit in 1998.

Net profit in the current year would more than triple to 255 billion yen, Sony said.

Revenue is expected to grow 5.2 percent to 8.0 trillion yen, backed by strong sales of image sensors, which are key components in smartphone cameras as well as other electronics.

Sony has struggled in recent years with huge losses, leading to a broad turnaround effort by chief executive Kazuo Hirai.

The overhaul has seen Sony cut jobs and sell various divisions, including its Vaio laptop unit, in a bid to stop the bleeding.

Sony said Friday its bottom line also benefited from a one-time gain on the sale of a manufacturing subsidiary in China as well as insurance recoveries linked to a pair of deadly quakes in Japan last year.

Major firms including Sony and Toyota temporarily shuttered factories following the tremors, hitting production and sales, while costs will also include repairing damaged buildings.

"Its gaming sector remains a strong earnings driver, while the TV and camera businesses are steadily recovering too," said Yasuo Imanaka, an analyst at Rakuten Securities in Tokyo, before the earnings were published.

"One concern is the fate of its film division. It will take time to put it back on a recovery track," he added.

Sony has taken a nearly $1 billion write-down at its movie unit as Sony Pictures' latest woes included box-office disappointments such as a reboot of the Eighties classic "Ghostbusters" with an all-female cast and "Inferno", a sequel to the "Da Vinci Code".