Electronic Arts Stock: Game On for 2011

Analysts are generally expecting Electronic Arts to beat fourth-quarter consensus targets, and are now focusing on 2011 in issuing guidance for Electronic Arts stock.
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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Analysts are generally expecting Electronic Arts (ERTS) to beat consensus targets when it reports its fourth-quarter performance Tuesday after the market close -- thus, the biggest question for Electronic Arts stock will be how the company guides for 2011.

With fourth-quarter expectations already factored into the stock, now, "the key is fiscal 2011," MKM Partners analyst Eric Handlers said. Thus far, Handlers says he is feeling positive about EA stock, given that Electronic Arts has a decent lineup of titles; he posits that Electronic Arts is in the "right direction in terms of quality of slate and ratings." In addition, rival

Activision Blizzard

(ATVI) - Get Report

doesn't have much going on right now, with the exception of a few new releases: Singularity and Blur.

"The June quarter is a quiet quarter," Handlers said.

Handlers adds that Electronic Arts' 2010 FIFA World Cup game has been doing quite well and should be one of the biggest-selling games globally.

During its third quarter earnings call, Electronic Arts guided below the consensus for 2011, forecasting non-GAAP earnings of about 50 cents a share to 70 cents a share and non-GAAP net revenue of about $3.65 billion to $3.9 billion. Analysts had, at the time of the call, been expecting earnings of 74 cents a share on revenue of $4.07 billion. "They really took their medicine last quarter and really rationalized expectations," Signal Hill analyst Todd Greenwald said.

That said, Greenwald doesn't think the company will lower 2011 guidance any further and will, instead, be reiterating it.

Ongoing issues that analysts will continue to look at include the company's exposure to foreign currencies and Europe, especially given the debt-contagion fears that have rocked Europe over the last few days.

"They do generate a lot of revenue from Europe," Greenwald said, adding that he'd be interested to find out whether there will be some negative impact on the company's euro and pound denominated revenues. Also, although Electronic Arts is unlikely to have much to say about this for now, Greenwald said he'd like to get an update on the company's distribution deal with

Respawn Entertainment


Regarding Tuesday's fourth-quarter release, "people are already expecting a healthy beat relative to guidance and consensus," MKM Partners' Handlers said.

On average, analysts are expecting a solid fourth quarter with earnings of 5 cents on revenue of $835.39 million, given that sales of

Battlefield Bad Company 2

Mass Effect 2

are both exceeding expectations so far. "Both games got off to very strong starts," Signal Hill's Greenwald said. The offsetting effect on these strong performers are underperformers

Army of Two


Dante's Inferno

, despite the hefty ad initiatives.

Dante's Inferno

is doing "just OK," Greenwald said.

Electronic Arts stock has risen about 3.2% to $18.20, rebounding with the broader market.

Analysts are expecting the big E3 Expo 2010, coming June 15 to June 17, to be an opportunity for Electronic Arts to show off its latest offerings.

-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York

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