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SONY EXPECTS INCREASED PROFITS
Report Says Japanese Company's Operating Profits to Double by 2003

Sony Corp.'s operating profit is expected to double in the year to March 2003 as restructuring winds down, PlayStation 2 investments pay off and a weak yen aids overseas earnings, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun said on Tuesday.

The Japanese business daily said that Sony's consolidated operating profit would likely bounce back to about $2 billion, the highest level in four years and more than double the company's own forecast for the current fiscal year through March.

According to Reuters, a Sony spokesman dismissed the numbers as speculation, adding the company would disclose its 2002/03 forecasts when it reports 2001/02 results in late April.

The report, in stark contrast to a series of grim profit news in recent months from other Japanese electronics makers, helped boost Sony's shares to their highest in more than a month. In mid-morning trade, Sony was up 3.48% at 6,250 yen and the most-actively traded issue on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in terms of turnover.

Sony's shares have risen nearly 60% from lows hit last autumn in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, rewarded for strong sales of Sony brand goods and the PlayStation 2 game console in the pre-Christmas season despite concerns the attacks would dampen consumer sentiment.

The company also stepped up a restructuring plan, bringing forward into the current fiscal year some of the job cuts that had been planned further down the road.

The yen's slide has brought an added boost for Sony, which earns 70% of its revenues abroad. A weaker yen increases the value of overseas earnings when they are converted into the Japanese currency.

The Nihon Keizai said that, while 2002/03 consolidated revenue was expected to grow only a few percent from this year's projected 7.55 trillion yen, Sony will be clear of restructuring costs that erased around 110 billion yen from profits in its electronics division this fiscal year.

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