Japan’s Sony Corp lifted its full-year operating income forecast on Tuesday, expecting to book its highest-ever profit due to strong sales of image sensors used in smartphones and other devices.
The electronics firm forecast profit of JPY 630 billion ($5.57 billion) for the year ending March, from JPY 500 billion estimated three months ago.
Meeting the new forecast would mean Sony exceeding its previous record of JPY 526 billion set in the year ended March 1998, when strong sales of consumer electronics including its first PlayStation games console coincided with its box-office hit “Men in Black”.
The new outlook compared with a Thomson Reuters Starmine SmartEstimate of 585.81 billion yen drawn from the views of 26 analysts.
Sony also said profit for July-September jumped to JPY 204.2 billion from JPY 45.7 billion a year earlier. The result is higher than the JPY 140.49 billion average estimate of 11 analysts.
The semiconductor division, which include sensors, is forecast to post profit of JPY 150 billion, up 20 billion yen from an earlier estimate and a reversal from last year’s loss, as it recovered from earthquake damage sustained a year ago.
A business overhaul refocusing on image sensors and games under Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai has moved Sony out of a decade of doldrums and boosted the firm’s stock price to nine-year highs.
But the stock price has plateaued in recent months as investors have become sceptical about Sony’s growth potential in coming years, when a profit boost from the earthquake recovery disappears and the PlayStation 4 console enters the late stage of its life cycle.
Hoping to grow future profit pillars, Sony has been boosting investment in artificial intelligence to catch up with US tech giants such as Amazon Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.
Sony this month unveiled its Xperia Hello! voice-activated communication robot. It is also widely expected to revive robotic pets, similar to robotic dog AIBO that went on sale in 1999.
It is also aiming to lead the budding virtual-reality (VR) market by gelling with the content portion of the group’s business such as music and film.
In sensors, the business is trying to crack into the lucrative automotive market, where demand for sensors is rising as an increasing number of cars are mounted with autonomous driving functions based on sensing technologies.