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  1. TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s Sony Corp (6758.T) surprised the market by reporting on Tuesday a record first-quarter operating profit despite the slowing gaming business, as strong demand for multiple-lens camera systems for smartphones boosted sales of image sensors. Sony is benefitting from sales of more powerful smartphones at customers including Huawei Technologies, offsetting gaming weakness as its almost six-year old PlayStation 4 console nears the end of its life and the cost to develop a next-generation console rises. “Our image sensor sales have been growing independently of the smartphone market growth” thanks to smartphone makers’ adoption of multiple-lens cameras and large-size image sensors, Chief Financial Officer Hiroki Totoki told an earnings briefing. “Our production facilities have been operating at full capacity.” The electronics firm posted an operating profit of 230.93 billion yen ($2.1 billion) for the April-June quarter, up 18.4% from a year earlier and overshooting a consensus estimate of 173.61 billion yen from eight analysts compiled by Refinitiv. The company, which has had two straight years of record profits, maintained its profit forecast for the year ending March at 810 billion yen. The imaging and sensing business, which includes image sensors, posted a profit of 49.5 billion yen, up from 29.1 billion yen a year earlier, comfortably offsetting a 9.6 billion drop in profit at the gaming business, its biggest profit earner. But some analysts say Sony is likely to be susceptible to the situation at Huawei, a major image senor client which Washington placed on a blacklist in mid-May, even though the Chinese company said smartphone shipments rose 24% in the first half of the year. Jefferies estimates Huawei accounted for 15%-20% of Sony’s image sensor revenue for the previous year. “Concerns about trade-related issues remain for the second half (of the financial year),” Totoki said at the briefing, adding that Sony will closely monitor the situation during the July-September quarter to judge the impact on annual earnings. Daniel Loeb’s activist hedge fund Third Point LLC has called on Sony to spin off the imaging and sensing business and position itself as an entertainment company. Totoki said the company is always open to proposals from shareholders, but also reiterated that the image sensor business was one of the pillars in the company’s growth strategy. He added that the annual profit forecasts have not factored in a potential fourth tranche of tariffs on $300 billion worth of goods that Washington has held off launching, a measure that would see almost all Chinese imports to the United States impacted by tariffs. The fourth tranche, if implemented, would affect its gaming consoles, cameras, audio devices and projects, he said. Sony shares closed almost flat on Tuesday before the results were released, while the broader market .N225 climbed 0.4%. The stock hit 11-year highs in September but has been battered this year by worries that profit at the gaming business has peaked. Source
  2. In the US, it plans to shutter operations in Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego and San Antonio. In its ongoing quest to become profitable, Lime says it will exit 12 markets across the globe. In the US, the company will shutter operations in four cities: Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego and San Antonio. It will also leave Linz, Austria, as well as Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Lima, Puerto Vallarta, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in Latin America. According to Axios, Lime is also laying off about 100 employees, which amounts to approximately 14 percent of its workforce. Lime president Joe Kraus told the website the tweaks will help the company become sustainable this year. "We're very confident that in 2020, Lime will be the first next-generation mobility company to be profitable," he said. Today's announcement isn't the first time Lime has scaled back its ambitions. Last month, the company shuttered its short-lived LimePod service, which had allowed people in Seattle to rent an electric car through the company's mobile app. The company has also tried to find new ways to generate revenue. In March, Lime started testing a subscription service that allows frequent customers to sign up for unlimited scooter and e-bike rides. It plans to roll out the service to additional countries this month. Source
  3. Square Enix is still recouping the costs of making the game. Square Enix has yet to earn back the money it spent on the development of Marvel’s Avengers. In its most recent earnings report, spotted by IGN, the company said its HD Games segment posted a 7 billion yen (approximately $67 million) loss for the quarter. Yosuke Matsuda, the president of Square Enix, attributed the downturn to a combination of poor sales and an expensive advertising campaign the company ran to promote the release of the game. “The HD Games sub-segment posted an operating loss as initial sales of Marvel’s Avengers were lower than we had expected and unable to completely offset the amortization of the game’s development costs,” he said. The executive went on to say Square Enix hopes DLC like the Kate Bishop add-on developer Crystal Dynamics announced last week will make the game profitable over the long run. To find out Marvel’s Avengers has been struggling isn’t too surprising. When we previewed the game ahead of its release, we didn’t come away with a strong positive impression of what it had to offer. It also highlights that live-service games are a risky proposition for publishers. Much-hyped titles like Anthem have fizzled out, and even a heavyweight like Destiny has struggled at times, leading to a split between the game’s developer and publisher. Even with a lucrative property like The Avengers, there’s no guarantee a game will find an audience that can sustain years of ongoing development. Source
  4. (Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc beat estimates for third-quarter profit on Wednesday, helped by strong demand for its phone and internet services as offices and schools continued to operate virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The health crisis has brought global economies to a halt, but the telecom sector has been relatively less affected. With lockdowns easing, Verizon gradually reopened all of its company-operated retail stores in the quarter, implementing touch-less retail, appointments and curbside pickups. Verizon added 283,000 postpaid phone subscribers in the third quarter, above the average estimate of 268,000, according to research firm FactSet. Total operating revenue fell 4.1% to $31.54 billion, which the company attributed to lower customer activity and the timing of certain device launches. Apple Inc, one of Verizon’s key partners, has delayed the launch of its new iPhones by about a month this year. Revenue in Verizon’s media unit, which includes Yahoo, HuffPost and TechCrunch, declined 7.4% in the quarter to $1.7 billion from a year earlier as companies cut down on advertising to rein in expenses. Net income fell to $4.50 billion, or $1.05 per share in the quarter, from $5.34 billion, or $1.25 per share a year earlier, with about 5 cents of COVID-19-related net impact, Verizon said. Excluding items, Verizon earned $1.25 per share, above analysts’ average estimate of $1.22. The company also said it now expects full-year 2020 adjusted EPS growth of 0% to 2%. Its prior guidance range was -2% to 2%. Source
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