Activision Slashes Earnings Outlook

Video-game publisher Activision ( ATVI) slashed quarterly and yearly earnings estimates after the bell Tuesday amid weaker-than-expected sales during the holiday season.

The news follows Chief Executive Bobby Kotick's statements at the end of the fiscal second quarter that the company would likely have its "best year ever" next year. At that time, the company raised earnings and sales guidance for the next several quarters.

Activision, which closed the day up 8 cents, dropped $2.60, or 16.5%, to $13.13 in after-hours trading.

The company behind the Spiderman and Tony Hawk skateboarding games reduced third-quarter earnings estimates to 60 cents a share on revenue of $362 million, compared with earlier expectations of 82 cents a share on revenue of $435 million.

Wall Street analysts polled by Thomson Financial/First Call expected the company to earn 77 cents on revenue of $420 million.

For the fiscal fourth quarter, the company said it expects to post a loss of 15 cents a share on revenue of $100 million, compared with earlier expectations of a profit of 2 cents a share on revenue of $139 million.

For its fiscal year 2003, the company pared down earnings expectations to 88 cents a share on revenue of $823 million. Earlier, executives told investors the company planned to achieve earnings of $1.29 a share on sales of $934 million. For its fiscal year 2004, Activision expects to post earnings per share of 80 cents on flat revenue of $823 million.

"Even though we still expect to grow revenues and net income this fiscal year, we are disappointed that our financial performance is below our expectations," said Activision President Ron Doorninkin in a statement. "The market will continue to pose challenges; however, we believe we are well positioned to benefit from the long-term positive fundamentals of the video-game business, as we have over the last 10 years."

Several Wall Street analysts have cut their estimates on Activision and other gaming stocks in recent weeks, after industry sales figures showed tepid growth in November.

Activision's misfortune dragged down the sector after the markets closed. Electronic Arts ( ERTS), ended the day up $1.56, but tumbled $2.77, or 4.6%, to $56.95 after hours. Take-Two Interactive ( TTWO) closed the day down 28 cents, and lost another $1.15, or 4.7% to $23.45 after hours. THQ ( THQI) closed up 22 cents, but plunged 80 cents, or 5.41% to $14 in after-hours trading.

Seemingly unaffected, Acclaim Entertainment ( AKLM) closed up 4 cents, and added another 2 cents to 93 cents after the markets closed. Midway ( MWY) shares ended the day up 19 cents at $5.49 and stayed flat after hours.

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