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Sony chief forecasts 20-year high in operating profit

Strong gaming, image sensor businesses set to push profit to 500 billion yen

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai speaks at Sony's headquarters in Tokyo on May 23.

TOKYO -- Backed by its strong gaming and semiconductor businesses, Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai on Tuesday said he was confident the electronics and entertainment giant will see operating profit reach 500 billion yen ($4.5 billion) in the year ending March 2018, a level the company hasn't seen in 20 years.

Speaking at a strategy meeting at the company's Tokyo headquarters, Hirai also said the company's once bleeding television business has seen a recovery, and he intends to focus on regions with high growth potential like Asia.

"The Sony brand has seen much support from consumers in Asia, especially in the Indian market, so I believe there's potential to focus on our lineup as well as deploying aggressive marketing schemes to expand our business there," he said.

Sony had previously forecasted its operating profit to surge 73% to 500 billion yen in fiscal 2017 as its chip business, which produces images sensors for mobile devices, saw a recovery after production was disrupted due to a series of earthquakes that hit Kumamoto Prefecture in southern Japan last year.

Sales of its flagship PlayStation 4 gaming console have also helped boost the company's revenue. Cumulative sales of the console is expected to reach 78 million in fiscal 2017, Hirai said, although he declined to comment on whether the company planned on releasing a new model.

Looking ahead, Hirai said his goal is to maintain strong profitability for years to come.

"We've never been able to maintain this level for multiple years. In order to do that, we can't stay with the status quo, we need to take a new approach," he said. Sony saw an operating profit of 525 billion yen in fiscal 1997, its highest to date.

Hirai, who assumed his role five years ago, said the company planned to promote innovation in its consumer electronic business while investing in fields like artificial intelligence, healthcare, virtual reality and robotics.

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