It's Financial Report Time in Japan

Most of the Japanese camera companies have a fiscal year that extends from April 1st to March 31st (Canon is the exception; they use the calendar year), so it's that time of year when most of them are reporting their year-end results. 

First in is Sony. Sony doesn't do a lot of break-out of camera numbers (all digital imaging for them in 2011 accounted for somewhere around 8% of their overall sales), but they do provide a few numbers and comments. Digital Imaging at Sony declined 22.5% between 2010 and 2011 in terms of sales. This was specifically attributed to the flood in Thailand, the appreciation of the yen, and the softness of the economies in a few of their key markets. Compact camera sales fell from 24m units in 2010 to 21m units in 2011 (they don't break out DSLR or mirrorless unit volumes). Sony predicted a recovery in Digital Imaging sales for fiscal 2013, though they predicted compact camera sales would be flat (still 21m units in the coming year).

Meanwhile, Olympus also reported their results. One curious thing I found right up front was "impairment losses on asset mainly in the Imaging business." This was listed as 14.1b yen, or about US$177 million. This was apparently due to a complete re-evaluation of assets within the company, including inventory. Net sales for the year in the Imaging group was down 2%, though the overall loss in the group declined by one third. Still, Olympus hasn't made a profit in cameras for some time now. Like Sony, Olympus stated the flooding in Thailand as a reason why net sales fell. The exact number they gave was 6.5b yen (on total sales of 128.6b yen). That Thailand adjustment wouldn't have been enough to erase the loss in the division had the floods not happened, though. 

Olympus did report that Pen and high-value compact camera sales were "steady," which implies that low-value compact cameras were the primary culprit in net sales loss. Moreover, there was an inventory build-up of cameras of 17% over the past year. In terms of overall camera market share, Olympus is claiming a 7% share the same as last year, producing 8.15m units with the total market listed at 116m units.

One very interesting statistic had to do with Japanese camera sales versus overseas. In Japan, Olympus camera sales were up 22.4%. Outside Japan, camera sales were down 7%.  

Finally, we have Nikon. Nikon is probably the most transparent of the camera companies in terms of information about camera sales, probably because most of their sales are in cameras (64% this year, compare that to Sony's 8%).

While Nikon was impacted directly by the Thailand flood, they actually reported an extraordinary gain (due to insurance proceeds), though this doesn't fully state the impact it had on overall sales. Surprisingly, Nikon managed to beat their previous estimates (made only a couple of months ago) in the Imaging group. They finished the year with 587b yen in imaging sales, and a strong 54b yen profit. Nikon sold 4.74m DSLRs and mirrorless (compared to 4.29m last year; and remember, most of their DSLRs are made in Thailand), 7.13m lenses (compared to 6.36m last year), and a whopping 17.37m Coolpix (compared to 14.26m last year). Nikon claims 29% of the interchangeable lens camera market (DSLR and mirrorless), 17.5% of the compact camera market, and 19% of the overall camera market. Nikon described sales of the Nikon 1 model as "brisk." 

Nikon also makes forward predictions (Olympus will, too, but not until their June shareholder meeting). They expect camera sales to increase 24% and profits 48% in the coming year. Yeah, you read that right. Nikon thinks they're a growth company. Let's put that in numbers: DSLRs and mirrorless sales in the coming year: 7m units (up 48% over last year). Compact camera sales: 18m units (up 3.7% over last year). Coupled with the CIPA estimates for industry wide sales, that would put Nikon's market share for DSLR/mirrorless at 37% and their overall camera market share at 22%. Heck, if that we're enough, Nikon expects to sell 10m lenses in the coming year (another 40% increase).

Because yen value is an important part of forward estimates, here's Nikon's numbers there: 80 yen to the dollar and 105 yen to the Euro: basically no substantive change expected in the coming year, which implies no yen appreciation price increases in the coming year.

Update: I missed Fujifilm's result presentation last week. Here's the brief summary:

Imaging Solutions, which includes paper and printing services, is only a small part of the overall company (15%). Fujifilm made the statement that sales of digital cameras, especially high end models (X-Pro1, X100, X10, X-S1) were strong. Indeed, the high-end models had strong enough sales to increase Fujifilm's average selling price per unit (not surprising, as previous to the X100, they didn't have a high end camera to speak of). Overall, Fujifilm claims to have sold 11.7 cameras, which would represent about 10% of the market. That said, the division still lost money during the year, though the amount of loss has declined considerably to the point where in the last quarter it was negligible. Further recovery in Fujfilm's imaging group is likely to make them profitable in the coming year. Fujifilm's forecast for the coming year is 12.3 million units. They also indicated that they would focus on sales of X-series models, which have a higher sales price and profitability. Curiously, Fujifilm didn't announce their planned 20% increase in film prices later this year until just after the earnings reports.  

Finally, we have Panasonic: Panasonic is such a huge company that cameras aren't generally broken out in their financial results. The one place where we do see information about cameras is in the sales trend area, where DSCs (digital still cameras) are identified as declining in their just reported year. But Panasonic had such huge declines in TVs, semiconductors, and mobile phones that the lower sales of cameras is just a blip. By the way, if you're trying to figure out where digital cameras fit into Panasonic's huge corporate structure, they are sub-component of AVC Networks division, which includes TVs, Blu-Ray recorders, laptop computers, and camcorders as well as digital still cameras. That group was down 21% in revenue and posted the largest loss of any of the Panasonic groups. It's expected to return to profitability in the coming year, but not post any meaningful sales increases (partly due to TVs no longer commanding the high prices they once did).  

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