Following the loss announcement on Thursday the company announced plans to close three of its plants in Japan as part of its efforts to restructure amid a fast changing market.

Sony facts

 Company established in May 1946

 Has more than 100 affiliated companies worldwide

 Total headcount: 180,500 (Mar '08)

 Global manufacturer of digital audio/video, communications and IT products

 Diversified interests in entertainment, game and financial services sectors

 Brandnames include Sony Music Entertainment, Sony Pictures, Sony Ericsson and PlayStation

Sony is the latest in a string of big Japanese manufacturers to announce huge losses, hit by the twin effects of the global economic downturn and the soaring Japanese yen, which reduces the value of overseas earnings and makes Japanese products less competitive overseas.

The loss for the fiscal year ended March marks the first time Sony has slid into red ink from troubles in its core electronics business – which includes the Bravia line of flat panel TVs and its Powershot digital cameras.

Sony saw sales at its mobile phone joint venture with Ericsson tumble while losses have also mounted in its gaming division with its PS3 console struggling against rival offerings from Nintendo.

Analysts expect the global market for digital cameras and mobile phones to contract this year as the recession dampens replacement demand.

The last time Sony sank into a net loss, for the fiscal year ending March 1995, its movie division, marred by box office flops and lax cost controls, was to blame.

Howard Stringer, Sony's chief executive, has recently stepped up efforts to restructure its core business and introduce a new management team to better coordinate the company's sprawling operations spanning electronics, games, movies and semiconductors.

The company is in the process of shedding 16,000 jobs and reducing its network of 57 manufacturing sites by 10 percent to survive the financial crisis.

Shares in Sony closed down 6.8 per cent on Thursday ahead of the earnings announcement.