Just over a week ago, we reported that Sharp, one of Japan’s biggest electronics firms, may be set to go under. We also noted how other Japanese tech mega-corporations, including Panasonic and Sony, aren’t doing too well either. After Sharp posted its most recent loss, its financial rating fell to junk status, and the company is now seeking a government bailout. Panasonic was also hit with a near-junk rating by Fitch earlier this month, after it posted a loss 30 times larger than analysts had estimated.
Now, Sony—the biggest of Japan’s big dogs—can’t escape the bad news either. On Friday, Moody's downgraded Sony’s long-term debt rating from Baa2 to Baa3, one notch above junk status. This marks the second time in a month Sony has been hit with a downgrade.
"Without robust restructuring in the coming 12 to 18 months, Sony's non-financial services businesses will at best achieve roughly break even, and are also at risk of remaining unprofitable," the rating agency said in its report.
In its most recent earnings report (PDF), Sony posted a net loss of ¥15.5 billion ($195 million). Sony’s stock has plummeted over the last year, dropping an additional 36 percent beyond a 53 percent loss from 2011.
In addition, Moody’s noted that rise of smartphones meant a “cannibalization of demand” for low-end digital cameras and even handheld gaming consoles.
“At the same time, operating profit from Sony's digital imaging products and games businesses declined about 60 percent in [the first half of 2012] on a year-over-year basis,” Moody’s added. “The earnings from these products are now expected to decline more rapidly than expected as the growing use of smartphones increasingly cannibalizes the market for compact digital cameras and portable game consoles.”
To add insult to injury, Japan’s economy minister also suggested Friday that none of these companies would likely receive a government bailout.
"In this society of capitalism, I believe companies in general should rebuild themselves through their own efforts," Seiji Maehara told a press briefing in Tokyo.