12-08-02 - 2


Concrete figures for something I regularly cite -

In the financial year 2001-2002, ending March 31, Sony posted net revenue of $56.9 billion (US dollars), with "net profit" of roughly $115 million ("operating income" of $1 billion). Granted, it was an especially bad year for Sony. In the current fiscal year, ending March 31, 2003, Sony expects to do much better, with closer to $1 billion (net) profit, on about the same revenue, $60 billion. Still, in this year Sony expects only a 1% profit margin on most of its business (consumer electronics), with the difference being made up by the 10% profit margin on PS2 games. Sony has a miniscule $5 million in cash reserves available. Sony has around $16 billion in hard assets (mainly machinery) that Microsoft doesn't have, but that's not really any sort of advantage.

In the same period, (year ended June 30, 2002), Microsoft posted revenue of $28.3 billion and net income of $7.8 billion (operating income of $11 billion). Microsoft has a staggering $38 billion dollars in cash (and non-cash liquid assets). This year (2003) appears to be even better for Microsoft, with estimated revenue around $32 billion, and "operating income" around $14 billion (net income around $10 billion). Microsoft has a staggering profit margin in the 25% to 30% range.

Just to compare, let's look at GE, perhaps the largest and most powerful corporation in the world. GE has total assets in excess of $500 billion, revenue around $130 billion, with profit around $14 billion.

Interestingly enough, GE and Microsoft are two of the largest tax-break-receivers in America. GE largely gets them through complicated leasing schemes; GE has paid on average a 10% tax on its profit in recent years (it should be paying 35% - that's a savings of over $3 billion each year). Notably, GE would be paying even much less (around 2%) if it weren't for the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) laws. Microsoft has received huge tax breaks due to a huge loop-hole for stock option grants. Stock options today are an essentially tax-free way to pay employees and write off profit. Microsoft has received roughly $3 billion in breaks each year, and in fact pays almost zero dollars in taxes.

All of this information is public; you can search Google and easy find it, and more. Most of it is available straight off the companies' own web sites, if you go and read their financial reports.

Another point of comparison - the entire GNP of Somalia is around $1 billion, about $200-300 per capita (I just picked Somalia to look up at random, by the way). The outstanding foreign debt that Somalia owes is around $3 billion. If you look at the world with importance assigned to dollars (which the people in power clearly do) it's easy to see how we can give breaks to GE ($495 billion) and bomb Somalia ($0).

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