CORRECTED - UPDATE 3-Take-Two profit easily beats Street, shares rise

Wed Feb 9, 2011 9:22am EST

(Corrects to "first year in nearly a decade" from "first year" in third paragraph)

* Adjusted EPS of 52 cents vs Street view 34 cents

* Consumers buying games in challenged economy-CEO

* Revenue beats analysts' expectations

* Shares rise 3.6 pct in after-hours trading (Adds investor comment, game sales figures)

By Liana B. Baker

NEW YORK, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Take-Two Interactive Software Inc's (TTWO.O) reported a quarterly profit that significantly exceeded Wall Street estimates, as its video game "NBA 2K11" and content that consumers could download sold more than expected.

Shares rose 3.6 percent in after-hours trading.

This is the first year in nearly a decade the company has posted a profit without the release of a new version of its hit franchise, "Grand Theft Auto." Take-Two struggled with financial and legal problems as recently as 2007, when current Chief Executive Strauss Zelnick took over as chairman.

Strong sales of newer titles like "NBA 2K11," which features Michael Jordan on the cover, helped Take-Two weather a year without a new GTA game. To date, it has sold 4 million units of "NBA 2K11," which launched in fall 2010, as well as 8 million units of the Western-themed "Red Dead Redemption," which launched in May 2010.

The company raised its outlook on Tuesday. Take-Two forecast a loss of 40 cents to 45 cents in its fiscal fourth quarter, ended March 31, on revenue of $130 million to $150 million. This beat Wall Street's expectations of a loss of 52 cents. The company had previously forecast a loss of 50 cents to 60 cents on revenue of $100 million to $150 million.

"Take-Two has the ability to hit their numbers and do better as well as the ability to raise their numbers and do better -- they are on a good path," said Walter Prendergast, who owns shares of Take-Two as a portfolio manager at Prencap Management.

The company reported adjusted earnings per share of 52 cents for its fiscal third quarter, which far surpassed Wall Street average estimate of 34 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Take-Two posted revenue of $334.26 million, which topped the $309.75 million expected by analysts.

"We continue to deliver good titles, our costs are under control and consumers continue to respond if you give them triple-A titles, even in a challenged economy," Zelnick said in an interview.

Analysts said the past quarter showed the company is headed in the right direction with its lineup of games.

"It's just more proof that business continues to be on track and the next catalyst for the stock is the release of 'L.A. Noire' and 'Duke Nukem Forever,'" said Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia, referring to two new games slated for release in May 2011.

The company's net profit increased to $40.86 million, or 45 cents a share in the quarter ended Dec. 31, from $37.92 million, or 43 cents a share, a year earlier.

Take-Two's shares closed at $14.54 on Tuesday on the Nasdaq. (Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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