Sony loses a billion, but it's not alone

Sony has marked 2008 as a billion dollar loser.

But this is slightly good news. In January, the Japanese consumer electronics giant braced the public for 2008 earnings that it expected to be more than two and a half times worse. The bad part is that despite Sony's best efforts, which include a workforce reduction of 16,000 and closure of 8 manufacturing facilities, the strong Yen is responsible for 85% of the company's losses. The company's sales and operating revenue were only down 2% otherwise.

It's a trend that is crushing Japanese consumer electronics exporters.

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The more that heavy exporters such as Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp rely on foreign sales, the more damage they take when foreign currency is devalued against the yen. A product simply decreases in value. And when the yen is strengthened, the manufacturing industry takes damage, which is a large part of Japan's economy.

A Nikkei report on Wednesday said that a number of Japanese TV makers, including Toshiba and Hitachi, have had to take similar actions to Sony and consolidate their manufacturing facilities. Hitachi is down to three TV factories -- one in Japan, one in China, and one in Mexico -- and it's considering outsourcing production to contractors elsewhere. Toshiba has taken the same approach and will increase its outsourced production from 30% to 50%.

Shinko Research Institute remarked that Hitachi's 2008 results were the worst annual net loss for any Japanese company, and constituted the second largest loss in the country's corporate history behind NTT's catastrophic losses after the 2002 telecom bubble.

Yesterday, the world's #2 camera manufacturer Nikon posted a loss of $68 million for 2008. Executive Vice President Ichiro Terato likened the situation to flying into a headwind, and predicted that 2010 revenue will drop a further 23%. Sony predicted its own total operating loss would be 15% lower.

Earlier this week, consumer electronics leader NEC posted a loss even more severe than Sony. For the fiscal year, the company's net loss reached three billion dollars, with annual sales down nearly 9% and an operating loss of $63.7 million.

Before Sony had even posted its losses, Turkish newspaper Hürriyet had already remarked that this week was one of the worst for Japanese companies, who had to suffer through a "Black Tuesday."

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