Activision outlook lags Street
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Activision Blizzard Inc (ATVI.O) set a forecast for the current quarter that was below Wall Street's targets, raising fears about its just-released title "StarCraft II" and sending shares down 6 percent in after-hours trading.
The video game publisher also reported lower-than-expected revenue for the June quarter, as new titles "Singularity" and "Blur" failed to excite consumers. The company fell short of the consensus sales estimate for the first time in the past eight quarters.
Analysts said Activision's forecast for the September quarter reflected weaker-than-expected initial demand for "StarCraft II," which was released last week.
Investors are hoping "StarCraft" will be a hit on the order of Activision blockbusters "Call of Duty" and "World of Warcraft," which have underpinned company profits during an industry slump.
"I just think that expectations were way too high for "StarCraft," said Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey.
For the current quarter, Activision Blizzard forecast an adjusted profit of 8 cents a share on non-GAAP revenue of $725 million. That was well below the consensus outlook for earnings of 12 cents a share on revenue of $912 million.
"StarCraft II," a PC strategy game, sold 1.5 million units in the first two days after its July 27 release.
But Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said investors remain jumpy.
"It's seen as one of the pillars of their growth," he said.
For its part, Activision said "StarCraft II" is off to a good start, as the company touted its robust second-half game lineup.
"We feel pretty good with where we are, especially with the strength of our slate is still ahead of us," said Thomas Tippl, Activision's chief operating and financial officer, in an interview.
Activision is the world's largest stand-alone video game publisher by market value, and investors have favored its shares over those of archrival Electronic Arts ERTS.O, which has struggled through a prolonged turnaround.
Activision reported a net profit of $219 million, or 17 cents a share, in the second quarter, versus a year-ago net profit of $195 million, or 15 cents a share.
Excluding items, Activision earned 6 cents a share, beating the average analyst estimate of 5 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue fell 7 percent to $967 million, while non-GAAP revenue -- which excludes deferred sales -- came in at $683 million. Wall Street was targeting revenue of $720 million.
Activision said the combination of weaker-than-expected demand for its new releases and a negative impact from foreign exchange caused sales to come in below its forecast
"The retail market continues to be difficult," Tippl said, noting that for the first time digital sales outpaced retail sales.
Activision's shares are up slightly from a year ago, despite an overall contraction in the $60 billion video game industry. Game software sales are down 8 percent this year in the United States, according to industry tracker NPD.
The company maintained its 2010 forecast for earnings, excluding items, of 72 cents a share on revenue of $4.4 billion. Wall Street is expecting a profit of 75 cents a share on revenue of $4.55 billion.
Shares of Activision closed at $11.75 on the Nasdaq, and fell to $11.00 in extended trading.
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