UPDATE 3-Activision revenue tops Wall St view

Thu Nov 5, 2009 6:09pm EST

* Q3 EPS ex-items 4 cts vs Street view 4 cts

* Q3 non-GAAP rev $755 mln vs Street view $724 mln

* Sees Q4 EPS ex-items 43 cts, rev $2.22 bln

* Q4 Street estimate EPS 44 cts, rev $2.3 bln

* Shares up 2.3 pct (Adds analyst comment, fresh share price)

By Gabriel Madway

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Video game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc (ATVI.O) reported better-than-expected revenue, led by sales of the company's latest "Guitar Hero" offering, and its shares rose 2.3 percent in after-hours trading.

Activision, the world's largest video game publisher by market capitalization, also offered what analysts called a conservative forecast for the all-important holiday quarter, given the uncertain consumer climate.

"I think they're being cautious in their outlook," said Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey.

"They have likely one of the biggest releases of all time in the quarter so I think there is some confidence in that ... but there's a little bit more uncertainty around the ultimate demand."

Activision is slated to release the most anticipated game of the year next week, "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2."

But the video game industry as a whole is struggling. Long-awaited price cuts on game consoles have so far provided only a limited boost to software sales, Activision Chief Executive Bobby Kotick told Reuters in an interview.

According to data released Thursday by NPD, GfK Chart-Track and Enterbrain, third-quarter industry-wide video game software unit sales fell a combined 6 percent in the world's three largest markets: the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Although Kotick expressed confidence in the company's holiday lineup, he said he was "very concerned" about the consumer mood.

"The question is whether the consumer will materialize, and I think there's huge risk that the consumer won't materialize."

For the current quarter, the company forecast earnings excluding items of 43 cents a share on non-GAAP revenue of $2.22 billion.

The outlook was slightly below the analyst expectation for a profit of 44 cents a share on revenue of $2.3 billion.

Activision's full-year 2009 forecast remains unchanged.

IN-LINE PROFIT

Activision reported a third-quarter net profit of $15 million, or 1 cent a share, compared with a year-ago net loss of $108 million, or 8 cents a share.

Excluding items, Activision earned 4 cents a share, matching with the average analyst estimate, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue fell 1 percent to $703 million, while non-GAAP revenue came in at $755 million. Wall Street was expecting revenue of $724 million.

The company showed some strength in its music business -- a category that has been struggling across the industry -- led by sales of its latest title, "Guitar Hero 5."

Activision said it still hopes to expand the audience for the music genre. The newest spinoffs, "DJ Hero" and "Band Hero," were released this quarter.

Shares of Santa Monica, California-based Activision closed at $10.87 and rose to $11.12 in extended trading. (Reporting by Gabriel Madway; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Bernard Orr)

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