* Q1 loss ex-items 52 cents, tops Street view 73 cts loss
* Q1 revenue rises 6.8 pct, tops Street view
* Reaffirms FY09 outlook
* Q2 forecast below Street view
* Shares dip 4 pct after 14 pct rise in regular session (Adds analyst comment, share move, byline)
By Gabriel Madway
SAN FRANCISCO, March 10 (Reuters) - Take-Two Interactive Inc (TTWO.O) posted stronger-than-expected quarterly results and reaffirmed its full-year forecast, but the video game publisher set an outlook for the current quarter below Wall Street’s expectations.
The company’s shares fell 4 percent in extended trading on Tuesday, following a 14 percent run-up in the regular session in a broad-based market rally.
Take-Two said revenue grew 6.8 percent in its fiscal first quarter ended Jan. 31, driven by sales of its blockbuster gane “Grand Theft Auto IV,” along with “NBA 2K9,” “Carnival Games” and “Midnight Club: Los Angeles.”
The company, which posted a loss in the quarter, said it expects that to mark the low point of its fiscal year, and does not plan to change its games release schedule or strategy.
The loss of 52 cents a share, excluding items, was well below analysts’ average estimate for a loss of 73 cents, according to Reuters Estimates. The net loss widened to $50.4 million, or 66 cents a share, from $38 million, or 52 cents a share, in the year-ago period.
“In the context of not being happy to report a loss ... we feel somewhat satisfied that things are going a bit better than expected,” Take-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick told Reuters in an interview.
“Our guidance reflects some uncertainty in terms of where the consumer spending is going to be and we’ve tried to take a prudent outlook in general but ... we’re cautiously optimistic that things will be reasonably sound this year. That being said, I don’t think anyone is writing home about the consumer economy right now.”
For the current quarter ending April 30, Take-Two forecast a loss, excluding items, of 10 cents to 20 cents a share on revenue of $200 million to $220 million.
Wall Street is expecting a profit of 2 cents for the quarter on revenue of $263.4 million.
For fiscal 2009, Take-Two reiterated its forecast for a profit of nil to 20 cents a share on revenue of $1.1 billion to $1.25 billion.
Analysts say the company still needs to find a big hit beyond its hugely profitable “Grand Theft Auto” franchise. The fourth installment in the series was released in April 2008, and a new version is expected in 2010.
Through the end of January, more than 13 million units of “Grand Theft Auto IV” have been shipped, the company said.
Hudson Square Research analyst Daniel Ernst said people will be watching to see how other titles fare. Take-Two’s planned releases include “Red Dead Redemption” in the fall.
“The interesting part of Take-Two will be later in the year where they have some tier one titles coming out that are not ‘GTA,’ and that’s where the rubber meets the road,” he said.
Revenue rose to $256.8 million, above the average Wall Street estimate of $211.5 million.
Although video game sales have held up relatively well, publishers have been stung as worried retailers cut back on store inventory. Electronic Arts ERTS.O and THQ THQI.O have shed jobs and canceled or delayed game releases.
Video game software sales rose 10 percent in January, according to NPD.
Shares of New York-based Take-Two fell to $6.57 in after-hours trading, from their Nasdaq close of $6.85. (Reporting by Gabriel Madway; editing by Richard Chang)