Sony Surprise $3.6 Billion Share Sale Strains Investor Faith

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Sony Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai
Sony Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Sony Corp.’s plan for its first share sale in 26 years is straining investors’ faith in Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai’s ability to deliver on growth promises.

The company plans to raise about 440 billion yen ($3.6 billion) by selling common stock and convertible bonds to help finance an increase in production of image sensors used in smartphones, Sony said Tuesday in a statement. The stock, which has doubled in the past year, dropped the most since September after the announcement yesterday.

The fundraising comes as Hirai is midway through a turnaround. He’s improved profit by cutting costs and generating more revenue from image sensors and PlayStation games, rebuilding confidence in a company that cut its earnings outlook 15 times in the past seven years. Still, investors are concerned about the size and timing of the offerings without more proof it can produce growth.

“This company has broken its promises for years, so the market won’t just take them at their word, no matter how promising image sensors may be,” said Mitsushige Akino, executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “They should have waited until there were some positive earnings to show as proof that growth is on track.”

Shares Rebound

Sony rose 0.3 percent to 3,472 yen in Tokyo trading, after dropping 8.3 percent on Tuesday. The planned sales amount to about 10 percent of the company’s market value of about 4.1 trillion yen.

“The shares have likely already priced in the negative impact of this news,” Masahiro Wakasugi, an analyst at BNP Paribas, wrote in a note to clients dated June 30. “We forecast overall dilution from the fundraising will be 9.8 percent at most.” Wakasugi maintained his reduce rating on the shares with a price target of 3,100 yen.

The share sale will be to the public in Japan and overseas, the company said. Stock will make up about 321.5 billion yen of the transaction, while convertible bonds account for 120 billion yen.

“We have gone through a restructuring phase and are now entering into an investment stage,” said Yasuhiro Okada, a company spokesman. The proceeds will be used to increase output capacity in the chip business, he said.

Chip Investment

Sony has said it’s quadrupling investment in semiconductors to 290 billion yen this year to tap surging demand for the sensors used in Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. smartphones. Sony expects sales in the image censor business to climb as much as 62 percent to 1.5 trillion yen in the next three years.

Operating profit will reach 500 billion yen in the year ending March 2018, the company has forecast in its mid-term plan. That’s the highest since 520 billion yen in 1998.

Sony’s net cash, or cash minus debt, stood at 1.4 trillion yen as of March 31, compared with 826 billion yen in the previous quarter and 500 billion yen a year earlier.

“The amount they are raising doesn’t correspond to the kind of growth we see in image sensors,” said Yasuaki Kogure, chief investment officer at SBI Asset Management Co. “This is pretty negative, and the share selloff shows a mismatch with market expectations.”

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