UPDATE, writethru: Sony Corp reported its full year 2019 earnings from Tokyo this morning with a 28.4% dollar increase in profits at Sony Pictures Entertainment. The division recorded $628M in operating income, up from $489M the previous year. The significant hike, which is through March 31, 2020, just after the coronavirus pandemic had shuttered cinemas globally, is due to higher worldwide theatrical sales versus 2018 which included the strong performances of last summer’s Spider-Man: Far From Home and the later releases of Jumanji: The Next Level and Bad Boys For Life. Revenues in the Pictures segment were $9.32B in fiscal year 2019, versus $8.87B in the previous comparable period.
Sony/Marvel’s latest Spider-Man weaved a $1.31B web at the global box office while holiday sequel Jumanji: The Next Level scored $797M worldwide, and early 2020 threequel Bad Boys For Life cruised to $419M.
Also contributing are higher licensing revenues for TV productions, though all increases were partially offset by a decrease in sales for Media Networks primarily due to the impact of the channel portfolio review that was undertaken in the previous fiscal year. An increase in charges related to that review totaled 17B yen in the current fiscal year as compared to 12.8B in 2018. If removing the one time cost, profit at the Pictures division would have been $784M.
In reporting its full year figures, Sony noted that box office revenue has been severely impacted by the closure of movie theaters around the world amid the COVID-19 crisis. The studio has not been able to release a portion of its already completed titles in theaters, moving a host of the slate into 2021. Production schedules of new features and TV shows are significantly delayed, and as a result, box office and revenues generated after theatrical release, including home entertainment and TV licensing sales, are expected to decrease over the next months.
Looking ahead, Sony said on an earnings call, “Theatrical release is always very important and because of the coronavirus impact, once the situation settles and we restart theatrical operations people may not come to theaters to view pictures so it may take some time. If that happens, we have to discuss new ways of releasing pictures and also we can use online and more technologies for live performances going forward.”
Overall, net income attributable to Sony Corporation’s stockholders was down 36% to 582.2B yen for the fiscal year. Given the uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus situation, Sony did not make a forecast for consolidated and business segment results for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021. On the earnings call, a representative said a forecast can be expected in August this year, but that based on assumptions about the COVID-19 curve, each segment’s operating income may decline by at least 30%.
Sony said it has no loans due in 2020 and plenty of cash on hand (960B yen). On the call, Sony maintained it has sufficient liquidity to operate soundly and is looking at potential strategic investment opportunities in a post-coronavirus world.