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Take-Two Interactive Warns

Updated from 5:13 p.m. EST

Take-Two Interactive (TTWO) warned investors and analysts to take down their earnings expectations on Monday, marking the third time the company has reduced its outlook in recent months.

The video game-software publisher slashed expectations for its fiscal year that ends Monday, for its coming first quarter and for its next fiscal year.

From the company's statement, it sounds like just about anything that could go wrong has recently for the developer of the hit Grand Theft Auto series. Take-Two blamed the warning on the delay in shipping a key title, disappointing sales and orders of other titles and worse-than-expected sales at its distribution unit.

"It is disappointing to reduce our financial guidance," said company CEO Paul Eibeler in a statement. "However, we remain optimistic about Take-Two's overall prospects and the favorable dynamics of our industry."

Color investors were somewhat pessimistic. After a 35-minute trading halt, Take-Two's shares were off $1.55, or 8%, in recent after-hours trading.

The company now expects to earn 53 cents to 56 cents a share in fiscal 2005 on sales of $1.18 billion to $1.185 billion. Analysts had predicted earnings of 86 cents a share on $1.25 billion in sales.

Last month, the company predicted earnings of 85 cents to 90 cents a share on sales ranging from $1.22 billion to $1.27 billion. But that outlook represented a reduction from the company's previous earnings and revenue estimates.

Looking forward, Take-Two now forecasts that its bottom line in its fiscal first quarter, which ends January 31, will range from break-even to a profit of 5 cents a share -- or, excluding stock-options costs, its earnings will range 4 cents to 10 cents a share on sales of $300 million to $350 million.

Previously, the company had predicted earnings of 10 cents to 15 cents a share -- 14 cents to 20 cents a share excluding the cost of stock options -- on sales ranging from $350 million to $400 million in the quarter. Analysts were expecting a profit of 18 cents a share, presumably sans options charges, on sales of $380.8 million.

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