GameStop slashes sales outlook, raises dividend

Thu Aug 16, 2012 1:53pm EDT

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(Reuters) - GameStop Corp, the world's largest retailer of videogame products, sharply reduced its sales forecast for this year as uncertainty grows around new releases for 2012 and the market continues to struggle.

But its shares gained 5 percent after announcing it would raise its dividend by 67 percent.

Grapevine, Texas-based GameStop, which has been trying to stave off decelerating growth by selling electronics like tablets and digital video games, is now forecasting same-store sales in 2012 would drop 2 percent to 10 percent, compared with flat to a 5 percent decline previously.

"This change reflects the uncertainty surrounding consumer demand at the end of this cycle in spite of the strong title lineup in the back half of the year," Chief Financial Officer Rob Lloyd told analysts on an earnings call.

The company said it had repurchased stock worth $136.4 million in the second quarter, compared with $34.6 million a year earlier. It also announced a quarterly dividend of 25 cents, up two-thirds from the first two quarters this year.

The company's shares rose 5 percent to $17.96 on the New York Stock Exchange.

"The dividend was a really smart move by the team there, creating a yield element to the shareholder return is being very well-received," Mike Hickey, an analyst at National Alliance Capital Markets said.

Sales of traditional videogame products such as consoles have been under pressure globally as gamers turn to lower-priced offerings on the Internet and spend more time on their tablet computers and phones.

The company expects comparable-store sales to fall between 5 percent and 10 percent in its third quarter, which began on July 29.

Total U.S. sales of videogame hardware and software dropped 20 percent in July after a similar trend throughout the second quarter, according to a report by market research firm NPD.

Game software sales were down 23 percent last month, the report said.

"Clearly the industry has had a tough first half," GameStop Chief Executive Officer Paul Raines told Reuters. "The NPD data is significantly down, and perhaps the industry has declined more than anyone, even analysts' groups, thought it would."

GameStop has largely weathered the tough videogame market by focusing on selling new and used games to console owners and expanding its digital and mobile offerings, including sales of iOS and Android devices in some stores.

"This was the worst year performance they've had in used sales," Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia said.

Until sales of new games recover, GameStop's used sales will remain under pressure, Bhatia added.

Raines said his company would see growth opportunities in the next two quarters from new game titles and the launch of Nintendo's new Wii U console later this year.

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GameStop has been expanding its mobile electronics retail business, digital offerings and making more video game accessories to push growth and combat slowing video game sales.

The company, which already makes and sells its own bluetooth-enabled gaming controller for Android tablets, intends to invest tens of millions of dollars a year in research and on its 200,000-square-foot manufacturing-refurbishment facility in Texas to enhance electronics manufacturing, Raines told Reuters last month.

Digital sales were up 27 percent from a year ago to $134 million, the company said.

"Instead of fighting technology change, they're attempting to embrace it and they have fairly significant goals on how they plan to grow the digital side of the business," Hickey said.

GameStop forecast third-quarter earnings of 28 cents to 36 cents per share, compared with analysts' expectation of 41 cents per share. But the company maintained its previously announced full-year earnings outlook of between $3.10 per share to $3.30 per share.

The company said its second-quarter net income had dropped to $21 million, or 16 cents per share, from $30.9 million, or 22 cents per share, a year earlier. Sales fell 11.1 percent to $1.55 billion.

Analysts on average were expecting earnings of 15 cents per share on revenue of $1.60 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

(Reporting by Malathi Nayak in San Francisco and Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Lisa Von Ahn and Bernard Orr)

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