Electronic Arts (EA) shares traded sharply higher Wednesday after the video game maker topped analysts' sales forecasts in its fourth quarter earnings report and said demand for its new Apex Legends release will help drive gains in the coming financial year.
EA said non-GAAP earnings for the three months ending in March, its fiscal fourth quarter, came in at 69 cents per share, but did not release a GAAP figure comparable to the 96 cents per share consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by FactSet. Group revenues, EA said, fell 21.5% from last year to $1.24 billion but topped the Street forecast of $1.201 billion.
Looking into its 2020 fiscal year, EA said it sees net revenues in the region of $5.375 billion, operating cash flow of around $1.575 billion and earnings in the range of $8.56 per share, as Apex Legends, a hugely successful 'Battle Royale'-type game, sparks user growth and new releases such as "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order" add to sale momentum later in the year.
"Apex Legends is the fastest-growing new game we've ever had, quickly reaching the milestone of 50 million players, and millions more have continued to join," CEO Andrew Wilson told investors on a conference call late Tuesday. "It has also helped us tap into new player audiences, as nearly 30% of Apex Legends players are new to EA. We're incredibly excited and humbled by the passion that fans around the world have for Apex Legends."
"We're now very focused on delivering for this massive global community with a long-term live service, including new seasons with more robust Battle Pass content, new legends, and exciting evolutions to the in-game environment," he added.
EA shares were marked 5.7% higher at the start of trading Wednesday to change hands at $98.00 each, the highest since early April and a move that would extend the stock's year-to-date advance to around 25%.
Apex Legends, a free-to-play battle royale game, gained more than 25 million registered users, with a peak of 2 million concurrent players recorded over the first weekend of its February release. The hugely successful 'Fortnite' franchise, by contrast, took nearly two weeks to reach the 10 million registered player mark.
"It's still very early in Apex Legend's game life. Management expects a re-acceleration in growth, relative to 1Q (we estimate ~$75M), as it ramps content in the remainder of the year following
some challenges scaling the live service," said KeyBanc Capital analyst Evan Wingren. "Bulls will suggest ~$350M given the historically conservative nature of the management team bodes well for the game's ultimate revenue; bears will say that it is aggressive given how early we are in the year and lack of visibility on content adoption given the mixed feedback on the first battlepass in late March."