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Sony Reports Surprise Quarterly Operating Loss

Sony reported a surprise quarterly operating loss on Wednesday, hit by losses in its videogame division and a fall in the value of its securities holdings, but it forecast a gain in profit this year.

Sony posted an operating loss of 4.7 billion yen ($45.29 million) for January-March, compared with a 113.37 billion yen loss a year earlier, when it was hit hard by hefty startup costs for its PlayStation 3 (PS3) game consoles.

The loss compared with the average estimate for a 27.3 billion yen profit from five analysts polled by Reuters Estimates.

Sony, locked in a three-way battle with Microsoft and Nintendo in the global game industry, saw profitability at its videogame operations improve as it cut manufacturing costs of the PS3.

The sharp turnaround came despite a firmer yen and a stock market downturn.

A stronger yen eats into its overseas revenues when converted into the Japanese currency, and a slide in stock markets forces Sony's financial unit to post appraisal losses on its securities holdings.

For the year to March 2009, Sony said it expected operating profit to grow 20 percent to 450 billion yen, beating a consensus of 428.5 billion yen in a poll of 17 analysts.

Shares in Sony, which competes with Samsung Electronics in flat TVs and Canon in digital cameras, have lost 23 percent so far this year through Tuesday, underperforming the Tokyo stock market's electrical machinery index, which fell 7 percent.

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