Sony Reports Quarterly Earnings

Sony has once again reorganized its many component parts into "logical" divisions. Actually, to some degree, the new divisions make more sense than any previous organization they've used. 

The net result, however, is to bury some key data deeper away from where most can see it. Both image sensors and cameras are affected by this. Image sensors now are in a unit called Imaging & Sensing Solutions (I&SS), while cameras now go into a unit called Electronic Products & Solutions (EP&S). The former isn't much more than a name change that places a greater emphasis on imaging (formerly the group was called Sony Semiconductor). The latter buries still cameras further from direct observation because they're now lumped with TVs, audio and video equipment, and mobile communications (plus some miscellany). 

You have to go deeper in the published materials to find out what might be happening in cameras. It's a bit different than the completely rosy picture that Sony Marketing and the Fanbois (sounds like a band name) have been trumpeting:

  • Dollars taken in: down 11.4% compared to last year's same quarter.
  • Dollars taken in: up 21.6% from the dismal previous quarter.
  • Unit volume: down 20% compared to last year's same quarter.
  • Unit volume: up 33% from the dismal previous quarter.

As I (and almost no one else) reported before, Sony camera sales were not at all immune from the January to March 2019 slump in the camera market. You can see that clearly in their numbers if you know where to look. Sales rebounded in April to June 2019, but not back to last year's numbers. As well as Sony has been doing—particularly in full frame—they are not immune from market contraction.

Unfortunately, it's now impossible to tell from the quarterly financials what's happened at deeper levels, like camera inventory, R&D investment, and so on, because those numbers are now all consolidated for all the units within EP&S.

One small tidbit from the financials: the image sensor fabs are 100% booked. This is a bit of a problem for cameras, actually. Even if there were demand that suddenly propelled camera sales upward, it would be difficult to fulfill it. I'm pretty sure there's a built-in contraction expectation in Sony Semiconductor's—uh, excuse me, I&SS's—production of the larger sensors going into dedicated cameras. The use of more than one image sensor in modern smartphones is what is driving the fab utilization, as is industrial and automobile image sensor usage.

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