Analysis, Business

Is Sony Imploding: Time to Call for a Hold?

Sony’s (NYSE: SNE) cost saving measures continue as it has decided to forgo its own brick and mortar stores and will be closing down the remainder of its stand alone Sony Store as their leases expire. Sony will be mitigating its costs and risks with physical retail locations by moving exclusively to an in-store Sony Experience similar to what Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), and Samsung (KRX:005935) already do with retail partners. However, this cost saving move may show Sony to be in worst financial straits than anyone with the company’s cares to admit to investors.

Over the last year, Sony has begun exiting shrinking margin technologies in the hopes to recapture market share in its remaining divisions. When the global PC market slowed down, Sony spun off its VAIO PC division to stem the tides of losses as PC sales gave way to Mobile Computing sales as Smart Phones and Tablets became the new kings of daily computing life for the global masses.

Recently, rumors continue to surround Sony selling off its Sony Mobile division as the duopoly in Smart Phone and Tablets continue with Apple and Samsung with anyone else needing to be able to survive multiple years of losses in order to leech market share away.

Shifting focus, but at a cost

At this rate, Sony may even be reconsidering its television hardware division as it continues to lose global market shares and the market continues to be flooded by sets from Samsung, LG, Visio, as well as up and coming manufacturers from China. Over the last few years, Sony has been plagued from a lack of innovation in its product line — as well as a struggle to remain cost-competitive — and it seems that Sony now only cares about its camera line and Playstation hardware segments which are Sony’s last high margin hardware product divisions.

Sony’s focus seems to have switched into entertainment based high margin industries but these are not without its own tribulations. The third-quarter losses were due to its Sony Picture Entertainment division surrounding the high profile cyber attack related to the movie, The Interview. The hack and subsequent leak of multiple movies and corporate documents have caused a shake up with the company ousting from management executive Amy Pascal after 12 years.

Additionally, Sony Pictures deal with Marvel over the Spiderman franchise rights shows its unwillingness to take additional risks at this time and would rather alleviate any possible points for loss with partnership agreement with Marvel to ensure as much of a good outcome as possible for the company.

Sony’s strenghs

Sony’s primary bright spot is with its Sony Computer Entertainment subsidiary and its Playstation being the current market leader over Microsoft’s Xbox One and Nintendo’s (TYO: 7974) Wii U. Sony continues to leverage its library of games from its past four generations of gaming consoles in order to continue to break into new markets such as streaming.

Its Playstation Vue may become a real rival with time but in a market dominated by Netflix and Hulu with the likes of Apple and HBO trying to break in, Sony leverage lies in its movies, music, and video games which the company is trying to fully leverage. Sony is doing what critics have been trying to get Nintendo to do for years, be willing to license its library and characters properties in order to better grow their ecosystem, introduce a new generation to its properties, and profit.

Sony over the last few years has enacted multiple restructures across in subsidiaries in order to cut laggard divisions and move into newer high margin area in increase profits and ensure the longevity of the company.

What does the future hold?

Yet, these spin offs have not strengthened the company’s fundamental, but have just mitigated Sony’s exposure to volatile industries at a time of global economic uncertainty. These new high margin streaming service division for television/movies, music and video games come at a time where other large players are entering the field with larger warchests than Sony.

The company is some ways is losing its identify and becoming similar to the fall which Apple and Kodak (NYSE: KODK) experienced.

While the renaissance which Apple experienced under Steve Job’s return and its increase in innovation and R&D helped to make it the corporate giant today; Kodak could not find its purpose in the modern word and it took a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in order for the company to shed laggards and institute a strategic shift in corporate philosophy. Only time will tell what the fate of Sony will be. For now, investors should simply hold the stock and wait and see what the results of Sony’s corporate strategy will be.