Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 3:37 pm.

How does Sony make money? Life insurance!

Sony’s consumer electronics business — led by TVs, videogames, and computers — still generates about half of the company’s sales.

But Sony’s profits these days come from what may seem like an unexpected source: Its financial services business, which includes life insurance, non-life insurance, and banking. (At least before the rest of Sony wipes those profits out — overall, the company expects to lose more than $1 billion this fiscal year.)

During six of the past nine quarters, Sony’s financial services business has generated more operating income than any other segment. (Though last quarter wasn’t particularly good, because of poor investment performance at Sony Life. See earnings PDF for details.) Meanwhile, the consumer electronics business has been a money loser over that period.

Sony revenue and profit by segment

Follow-up: How Sony lost its way, starting with software

Previously: The rise and decline of Sony: A 20-year view