Sony’s U.S. shares have lost about 10.5% of their value over the last seven trading days. But while the hack attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) and the embarrassing disclosures that followed surely hurt, they aren’t primarily responsible for the decline. The Tokyo-based electronics and entertainment giant has been buffeted by several major developments — including the drop in oil prices to a five-year low — that helped to shave 6.5% off of Japan’s Nikkei Index over the same period. “Those are going to have a larger impact on day-to-day trading for Sony,” says longtime entertainment analyst and investor Christopher Dixon.
SPE is important to Sony because it often turns a profit at a time when other Sony units are losing a bundle. Last month the company said that it won’t pay a dividend this year, the first time that’s happened since 1958 when it went public, and forecast a $1.7 billion drop in sales of TV sets and audio equipment through 2017.
But investors are only mildly interested in the movie and TV production operation: It accounts for just 11% of Sony’s total sales — which totaled $58.4 billion in the fiscal year that ended in March (based on today’s exchange rate). Sony has a lot more at stake in mobile communications, game and network services, home entertainment and sound, financial services, and devices (which include image sensors and batteries).
So Wall Streeters looking at the SPE hack attack are primarily concerned about the fact that it didn’t have sufficient security to block it — and protect its films — than they are by the disclosures that followed. “There’s a lot of cattiness, but that’s what Hollywood lives on,” Dixon says. “Sony needs to demonstrate that they’re putting [computer] controls in place. So far the damage control has been, ‘Don’t tell those silly stories’.”
He and others also will keep an eye on whether the revelations hurt SPE’s relationships with top talent. “Sony may have — and I emphasize ‘may have’ — dropped down a notch or two” in the pecking order, he says.
So if the SPE situation isn’t driving Sony shares, then what is? The drop in global oil prices fueled concerns that consumer demand is weakening, especially in emerging economies. Japan slid into a recession this summer, and the value of the Yen has diminished against the dollar. Investors were unimpressed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe election victory on Sunday as they wait for him to flesh out his stimulus plans.
Meanwhile there’s concern about Sony’s plan to begin selling its PlayStation 4 gaming console in China on January 11. The company failed to break into the smartphone market there, and Microsoft beat Sony to the punch in gaming by introducing its Xbox One in September.