Take-Two's forecast 'better than feared', shares hit record

(Reuters) - Take-Two Interactive Software Inc, the maker of “Grand Theft Auto” videogames, forecast full-year revenue below Street estimates as it delayed the launch of a game, but at least two analysts said the outlook was not as bad as feared.

Take-Two’s shares rose as much as 11 percent to a record high of $76.70 in early trading on Tuesday, reversing course from a 6 percent drop before the bell when the company issued its forecast and fourth-quarter results.

Take-Two said on Monday that its Rockstar Games studio would delay the launch of the highly anticipated Western action-adventure “Red Dead” videogame to spring 2018 from fall 2017, triggering a 10 percent drop in its shares in extended trading.

“...Red Dead Redemption 2 will be their first game created from the ground up for the latest generation of console hardware, and some extra time is necessary to ensure that they deliver the best experience possible,” Chief Executive Strauss Zelnick said in a statement.

Take-Two forecast adjusted revenue of $1.42 billion to $1.52 billion for the year ending March 31, 2018. Analysts on average had estimated revenue of $2.23 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company’s tentative outlook for fiscal 2019 looked a lot like fiscal 2014, when the latest iteration of the “Grand Theft Auto” game launched, said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter.

“That suggests they have $4.00 in earnings power two years from now, and the FY:18 guide wasn’t as bad as feared,” Pachter added.

Take-Two said it expected net sales to top $2.5 billion in its fiscal year, starting April 2018, driven by “Red Dead Redemption 2” and a new title from its studio 2K, which makes the “Mafia” and “NBA” game franchises.

MKM Partners said Take-Two’s forecast was better than feared, while Jefferies said it believed the delay would not affect sales of the “Red Dead” game.

“We attribute this slip to Rockstar’s infamous perfectionism and don’t think it changes the overall unit sales potential for the game,” Jefferies’ analysts said in a note.

The company said net revenue surged 51.5 percent to $571.6 million in the fourth quarter ended March 31.

On an adjusted basis, the company reported net revenue of $407.1 million for the quarter, beating the average analysts’ estimate of $355.4 million.

Net income rose to $99.3 million, or 89 cents per share, from $46.4 million or 48 cents per share, a year earlier.

Reporting by Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza and Anil D’Silva