Electronic Arts ( ERTS) blew past earnings estimates in its fiscal fourth quarter, but it offered mixed guidance for fiscal 2005. While the video game software company expects its full year will likely top Wall Street's expectations, the company warned that its coming quarter may fall short of analysts' estimates. The warning marked the
second straight quarter that Electronic Arts has sought to rein in Wall Street's outlook. But considering how thoroughly the company trounced its own guidance for the just-completed period, it may be opening itself up to further charges of trying to harder than most to manage earnings and expectations . In its just-completed period, Electronic Arts earned $90.04 million, or 29 cents a share, compared with $9.24 million, or 3 cents a share, in the fourth quarter last year. The company's sales surged 29% from the year-ago period to $598.43 million in the quarter. But the company's bottom line benefited from a settlement of a tax dispute that lowered its income taxes by $20 million, or 6 cents a share, in the quarter. Excluding that gain and some restructuring and non-cash charges, the company would have earned $77 million, or 25 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had expected the company to post earnings of 21 cents a share in the quarter on $571.59 million in sales. The company guided in January to earnings of 17 cents to 20 cents a share on sales ranging from $550 million to $570 million. In its current quarter, Electronic Arts expects post a bottom line ranging from break-even to 5 cents a share in profits on sales of between $390 million to $430 million. For the full year, the company projects earnings of $1.95 to $2.10 a share and sales ranging from $3.25 billion to $3.40 billion. Meanwhile, Wall Street has forecast that Electronic Arts will earn 7 cents a share in its first quarter on $380.25 million in sales. The consensus was that the company would earn $2.01 a share -- 2 cents below the midpoint of the company's range -- on sales of $3.28 billion this year. Investors appeared to shrug off the company's first-quarter guidance, which came after the bell on Thursday. In after-hours exchanges, Electronic Arts' stock recently jumped $1.07, or 2.1%, to $51.02. The company's shares closed regular trading at $49.95, off 86 cents, or 1.7%.