Sony profits fall 23 percent
Sony Corp said profit at its electronics business fell 23 percent in the third quarter as price cuts lowered earnings from its older television models, portable audio equipment and video cameras. Operating profit at the unit, which accounts for about 70 percent of Sony's sales, fell to 49.4 billion yen (US$478 million) in the three months ended Dec. 31, from 64.4 billion yen a year earlier, the Tokyo-based maker of the PlayStation Portable game machine said today while releasing final earnings for the period. Sony, the world's second-largest consumer-electronics maker, has had to lower prices to compete with companies such as Apple Computer Inc in music players and Samsung Electronics Co in flat-panel televisions.
■ Auto Sector
Ssangyong out of the red
South Korea's Ssangyong Motor, acquired by China's Shanghai Automotive Industry, emerged yesterday from a five-year creditor-led debt workout program, company and bank officials said. "Ssangyong Motor has put an official end to its debt workout plan today, finally returning to the position of a normal firm which can stand on its own," said Chun Hyung-jin, a Chohung Bank official handling Ssangyong's debt. The announcement coincided with a board of directors meeting which voted a Shanghai Automotive executive onto the board. Ssangyong, which specializes in sports utility vehicles and large sedans, was placed under a debt restructuring program by creditors in 1999 when parent Daewoo Group collapsed. The Chinese automaker signed a contract in October to buy a controlling 48.9 percent stake in Ssangyong for US$500 million.
The Plaza to be revamped
The Plaza Hotel, the New York landmark where children's book heroine Eloise romped and Neil Simon's movie Plaza Suite unfolded, will close at the end of April and reopen next year as a condominium-hotel-retail complex, its owner said on Wednesday. At its reopening, scheduled in the fourth quarter of 2006, the hotel at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue that looks like a baroque stone wedding cake overlooking Central Park and Grand Army Plaza, will contain about 200 luxury condominiums and 150 hotel rooms. The hotel now has 805 rooms. The condos will range from one to four bedrooms on the top 12 floors of the building as well as some lower floors facing Central Park. The new hotel rooms will be located on lower floors along the property's 58th Street side.
Starbucks' earnings up
Starbucks Corp said strong sales of holiday drinks, gift cards and music helped boost quarterly earnings by 31 percent, and the coffee retailer raised its earnings forecast slightly for its current fiscal year. The Seattle-based retailer on Wednesday reported earnings of US$144.9 million, or US$0.35 per share, up from US$110.4 million, or US$0.27 per share, in the same period last year. Revenue for the 13 weeks ended Jan. 2 was US$1.59 billion, up 24 percent from US$1.28 billion in the comparable year-ago period. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of US$0.34 per share on revenue of US$1.59 billion. Michael Casey, Starbucks' chief financial officer, said the company's quarterly growth showed that Starbucks is able to draw loyal customers despite an October price increase in its lattes, cappuccinos and other specialty coffee drinks.