The past several months haven't been kind to the electronics industry. Most manufacturers are suffering from slow sales and backlogged inventory. But one company is painting a slightly different, if confusing, picture. Unless you've drastically slashed margins while quadrupling sales volume, the phrase "record quarterly sales but decreased profits" appears self-contradictory. Yet Sony Corporation
is claiming exactly that for the last quarter of 2001, the company's third fiscal quarter. (Most electronics manufacturers begin new fiscal years April 1.) On Friday, January 25, Sony announced a 14.4% decline in overall profits for the final three months of 2001, due to sagging demand for consumer electronics products. The company reported that sales of electronics decreased 2.8% to ¥1.55 trillion, with operating income for its electronics unit down a stunning 47% to ¥71 billion. The same announcement claimed an all-time quarterly sales record for Sony Corporation as a whole.