Thanks to the uneasy air of change, it may be best to wait on Sony(NYSE:SNE) stock for a few more months. After reports on the sale surfaced last week, the tech giant confirmed that it had reached a deal with Japanese investors to sell its Vaio PC segment and concentrate more on mobile devices and content like movies and games.
The consolidation promises new things to come, but it is best to approach Sony with a wary eye. Still reeling from a late-January downgrade to junk stock by Moody's, Sony dipped sharply again when the PC rumors were confirmed, falling below $15.50 before rising to hover around $16.70 on Monday after analysts weighed in with more positive outlooks.
Sony needed to do something. Like Microsoft, it had fingers in a bewildering number of pies (albeit with a greater focus on entertainment), but sales in many of the areas have been weak in the past year or so. As CNET pointed out, Sony is a traditionally consumer-oriented company. While businesses like HP can thrive on commercial PC sales, Sony has to create appeal among individual buyers for its desktop and laptop creations. This was proving too difficult for the Japanese tech company. When was the last time you even saw a Vaio monitor?
Key Sony competitors and challenges
The ultimate effect on Sony stock will grow clearer by the end of March, when the deal is expected to close and Sony's annual reports are released. Wait until then to make a move on Sony stock, and consider the implications for Sony rivals.
Analysts have been quick to chime in and suggest that Sony take its consolidation a step further by selling its TV line as well. A Sony TV spin-off is indeed planned for later this year, and if it occurs, rivals like LG and Samsung will benefit. Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) hopes to recover with a greater focus on tablet and smartphone purchases this season. Both companies will offer significant competition for Sony as the consolidation is completed and the TV segment spun off. Rivals like Lenovo (OTC:LNVGY), which saw its price sink dramatically in early February, already have reason to be grateful for Sony's PC decision.
As Sony reveals more information on its 2014 streamlining, its stock may show more appreciable gains -- if the company can provide evidence of exciting innovations in remaining divisions. However, there are a few key points to keep an eye on.
As Sony's fiscal year closes in March, reports on net profit will be key. Sony spent years recording losses before returning to the black in 2013. Lost sales and restructuring expenses will probably force it down to the red again, to the tune of 110 billion yen in losses, but final statements may alter the figure.
Sony's latest game console is rapidly selling millions (4.2 million at the end of 2013), and promises to be a welcome source of income in the coming year, potentially lifting stock if the company can continue reporting good news.
Sony's restructuring may eventually incorporate its movie division, which is showing increased losses despite downsizing. Losing movies could provide a blow to Sony's value.
The 4K Market
Sony has decided to keep its 4K TV lines, but it needs to show strong sales to make the investment worthwhile. The biggest barrier is price. Sony will need to find a sweet spot between slashed prices that match competitors and profit margins that make 4K a strong division.
Sony's intention is to pump money and talent into its mobile development. This needs to show results, preferably new software and hardware, sooner rather than later.
Until more information surfaces on these points, rein in on Sony, but watch for developments that will give its competitors a boost, and wait for that key annual report coming at the end of March or in early April.