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Yen screws Sony apparently

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Sony has reported its financial results for the first half of 2016 which saw revenues drop 10.8% apparently due to a strong Yen and nothing to do with a collapsing smartphone division.

The Yen has been performing particularly well compared to other currencies this year, though many companies around the world have to compete with fluctuating currencies, so whether this is a valid excuse is your own decision.

The sluggish smartphone market has seemingly hit Sony harder than other brands, as the mobile communications unit reported almost 40% year-on-year decrease to ¥168.8 billion, though in fairness it has reduced its focus in mid-range smartphone market, and unprofitable regions. The team has seemingly got tired of swimming against the tide and is slowly withdrawing to the shore.

Sony has been in the process of cleaning up its smartphone business, apparently sick of haemorrhaging cash, focusing more specifically on the high-end market even if this does mean a sharp fall in top-line revenues. An area which will encourage the team is the turnaround in profit. The most recent quarter saw a profit of ¥3.7 billion compared to a loss of ¥20 in the same period of 2015.

The mobile communications business would appear to one of the main pain points, though year-on-year declines have also been witnessed in the home entertainment & sound, imaging products & solutions, semiconductors, and components units.

The Games and Network division, which has been the poster child of Sony in recent years also took a hit. The division on the whole decreased 11.3% year-on-year to ¥319.9 billion (just over $3 billion), reporting a profit of ¥19 billion, down 20%. The reduction has been attributed to a price reduction for PlayStation4, though PS4 software sales did increase.

The virtual reality market is unlikely to have made any material impact on the Sony business thus far, though once it does penetrate the mass market, it could be a tidy earner for the team. PS4 already has a strong market position in terms of units sold and brand credibility; Sony is in a strong position. VR is unlikely to start causing significant waves in the near future as the supporting infrastructure is not ready to cope with the tsunami of data generated by the experiences. The excitement and expectation is there to make VR a success, the industry just needs to infrastructure to catch-up.

Just to be fair to the Sony team, the Yen has not been helpful for the business on the whole. Over the course of the period the average rate of the Yen against the dollar was ¥102.4 and ¥114.3 against the euro, down 19.3% and 19% respectively. In layman’s terms, HQ received less money each time a product was sold in the US and Europe, once it was translated back into Yen.

This won’t be a helpful trend, but Sony probably employs some pretty clever accountants who will be able to make sure these perfectly normal market fluctuations do not impact the business in a particularly negative impact. It’s a very convenient excuse for a company which reported a flat year-on-year performance when adjusting for constant currencies. That’s not a particularly great year either.

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