Don't fret over Sony's near $1 billion writedown. Here's why

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Don't be quick to write off Japanese electronics and entertainment giant Sony, despite the latest round of disappointing earnings.

At least that's what analysts were suggesting, even as the company saw a 54.3 percent on-year decline in operating income to 92.4 billion yen ($820.32 million) in the October-December quarter, leading Sony to cut its full-year outlook on Thursday.

"Most people would look at the headlines and might have gotten confused, but the underlying profitability is very, very strong," Atul Goyal, an equity analyst at Jefferies, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Friday.

The market seemed to have taken note as Sony shares jumped 6 percent to 3,571 yen Friday morning in Tokyo.

Sony cut its forecast for operating income by 30 billion yen from its November predictions to 240 billion yen for the full fiscal year ending Mar. 31.

A key reason behind Sony's unimpressive quarterly headline numbers, and the cut in outlook, is a 112.1 billion yen non-cash goodwill impairment charge for its struggling Columbia Pictures unit announced a few days before the earnings. Sony bought Columbia Pictures Entertainment in 1989.

Sony also revised its expectations on future profitability of its motion pictures business due to the recent performances of its home entertainment business which, the company said, was facing an "acceleration of market decline."

"There is no cash loss. What they are telling you is this business needs to be fixed," Goyal said.

He pointed out that Sony's struggles in the motion picture business are not unique to the Japanese company; other major production companies such as Paramount are also struggling, in part due to Disney's efforts to consolidate big, blockbuster franchises under its banner, according to Goyal.

Sony's underlying profitability strong: Analyst

Sony's standout performers in the third-quarter results were the game and network services business and semiconductors.

The game and network services saw a 5.2 percent on-year increase in sales due to higher software sales of the PlayStation 4 (PS4) and the PlayStation VR which was launched in October last year; that helped to offset some of the impact on PS4 hardware sales as a result of foreign exchange fluctuations.

Semiconductors saw a 27.6 percent on-year increase in operating income to 27.2 billion yen for the quarter, due to a rise in sales of its CMOS image sensor to smartphone makers such as Apple and Samsung.

"The volume of sales of image sensors for mobile devices rose sharply...in-house production facilities are running at full-capacity, and the company plans to send more work to contract manufacturers or use the Oita factory if it needs to boost production further," said Nomura analyst Yu Okazaki in a note.

Sony could see further growth in earnings heading into the second half of the calendar year due to increased adoption of dual cameras and high-definition front cameras, which use the CMOS sensor, in smartphones, Credit Suisse research analyst Mika Nishimura added in a note.

A potential headwind for Sony is the recent strength against the yen, which Nomura reckoned will have a negative impact on the company's hardware business such as TVs and smartphones. But the bank said in the research note the impact can be limited if Sony sticks to its margin-oriented business strategy.

Analysts also said Sony's other business segments, including music, mobile gaming and TV channels, were also performing well. With another year to go before the conclusion of their three-year mid-term strategy plan, announced in fiscal 2015 and with the aim of achieving 500 billion yen in operating profit by March, 2018, Sony still has some leeway before it is expected to deliver strong numbers.

"The management is doing very cleverly all the writedowns, all the losses, all the bad businesses - they are either exiting, booking losses or trying to fix them. They're looking very good from here onward," said Goyal, adding most of the bad news was already factored into the stock price.

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