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Sony could see a nearly 30 percent share surge as analysts expect highest earnings on record

Key Points
  • Analysts expect Sony to report a record operating profit for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019.
  • Bullishness around the gaming and image sensor business has prompted analysts to increase their price target for the stock. The average expectation is that shares could rise nearly 24 percent in the next 12 months.
  • Sony shares are already up over 22 percent so far in 2018.
Attendees look at Sony Corp. PlayStation 4 (PS4) game consoles on display during the 2018 Taipei Game Show in Taipei, Taiwan, on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018.
Billy H.C. Kwok | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Investors are getting increasingly bullish on Japanese technology giant Sony thanks to its booming PlayStation gaming business, which could help propel the company's earnings to a new record level.

On Friday, Nomura upped its price target for Sony's stock to 8,000 Japanese yen ($71.43), marking a more than 27 percent rise from Monday's opening price. Last month, Credit Suisse upgraded its outlook on the shares from "neutral" to "outperform." The average price target from analysts on Sony's shares is 7,730.50 yen, which if realized, would represent a 23.7 percent increase, according to data from Reuters.

And expectations have been rising quickly. Just three months ago, the average price target for the stock among analysts was 6,587.27 yen. Sony shares are already up over 22 percent so far in 2018.

Nomura analyst Yu Okazaki said in a note published Friday that Sony's business model is shifting to focus on content, citing the good start of new PlayStation 4 game "Spider-Man," and movie "Venom," both of which are produced by the company's content studios.

"Strong performance in these content-related areas means that near-term earnings have probably been better than we had previously expected," Okazaki said in the note.

The analyst added that a relatively stronger dollar has been "a concern" for hardware manufacturers such as Sony, but the company is likely to maintain growth by "sticking to its high value-added strategy."

The games business, which accounts for over 24 percent of total revenues, grew 35.6 percent year-on-year in the three months that ended on June 30. Sony has also seen growth in its image sensor business, which sells to smartphone makers for cameras within the handsets.

High expectations for those business have led analysts to forecast that the Japanese giant could see a record operating profit for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019. Analysts polled by Reuters projected that Sony would report an operating profit of 794.71 billion yen, topping the record 729.9 billion yen reported in the last fiscal year.

Still, there are some risks to the business. A slowdown in the smartphone market could hamper demand for components that Sony makes like image sensors and increased competition in other categories could weigh on the stock.

"Sony faces intense rivalry in each of its product lines including television, game platform and smartphone and services across the world. Failure to create new products that are in sync with customer demand may reduce sales of the company's products," Zack's Investment Research said in a note published on Oct. 9.

"Each of these markets witnesses stiff price wars, continuous product innovations and changing customer preferences, which put immense pressure on Sony to come up with better products so as to sustain the competition," the note said.