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Sony Surges After Increase in Forecast on Gaming Demand

(Bloomberg) -- Sony Corp. shares soared after the company raised its fiscal-year operating profit outlook by 13%, with a surge in video-game demand from home-bound consumers.

The forecast of 700 billion yen ($6.7 billion), up from a previous 620 billion yen, surpassed the average analyst expectation of 658.9 billion yen and precedes the PlayStation 5’s highly anticipated November debut. Sony’s stock climbed as much as 5.8% in Tokyo, their biggest intraday gain since March.

Sony aims to sell more than 7.6 million PS5 units by the end of March, more than the PS4 managed in its first fiscal year, Chief Financial Officer Hiroki Totoki said.

Sony’s outlook hike underscores how the entertainment giant is benefiting from a global Covid-era consumer shift. While sales of its smartphone image sensors have been hit by U.S.-China trade tensions, the Japanese company is drawing gamers to its online services. Sony is betting that the PS5 will help it outdo Nintendo Co. during the all-important holidays and drive growth.

Hardware sales of the new console are likely to contribute “a small minus” to Sony’s bottom line over its first few months, the CFO added, confirming expectations that it will be a loss leader to begin with.

“Sony will spend a lot of money to deliver many units of the PlayStation 5 to the U.S., probably by air,” said Ace Research Institute analyst Hideki Yasuda. “The hardware would be sold at a slight loss as well.”

Operating profit for the three-month period ended Sept. 30 rose 14% to 318 billion yen, outstripping expectations. Game software sales in the quarter were 331 billion yen, down from the 432.5 billion of the prior three months. Sony now has 45.9 million members signed up for its PlayStation Plus subscription, up from 45 million in the prior quarter.

Key takeaways:

Sony sees improved profits in all segments except for imaging and sensingRaising fiscal-year operating profit forecast for gaming division to 300 billion yen from 240 billion yenCompany cites software, mainly add-ons, for improved gaming outlookMonthly active PlayStation users declined to 10.7 million from 11.4 million quarter-on-quarter

Sony Interactive Entertainment Chief Executive Officer Jim Ryan told Reuters the company pre-sold as many PS5 units in the device’s first 12 hours of availability as it did in the PS4’s first 12 weeks.

The novel coronavirus continued to weigh on Sony’s motion picture business, as many theaters around the world remained far shy of capacity, though the company’s movie prospects may be headed for a bump in the next quarter, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Masahiro Wakasugi. This is largely thanks to the runaway success of a Demon Slayer movie released to theaters on Oct. 16, recording the fastest box office debut in Japan with 10.8 billion yen earned in its first 10 days. The movie’s revenue is part of the group’s music segment.

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