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Video-game publisher

Activision

(ATVI) - Get Activision Blizzard, Inc. Report

posted a jump in sales and earnings in the fiscal third quarter, but cut guidance for next year.

The game industry's second-largest publisher reported net profit of $44.3 million, or 63 cents a share, compared with $39.1 million, or 66 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Sales rose to $378.7 million from $371.3 million last year.

Wall Street analysts expected the company to report earnings of 59 cents a share on revenue of $365.49 million, according to a Thomson Financial/First Call poll.

The Santa Monica, Calif., publisher of hit game franchises

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and

Tony Hawk

set off sector-wide panic late last year when it told Wall Street that sales and earnings would be drastically curtailed in the holiday shopping season. In a bid to secure a steady stream of hit games in the future, the company extended a deal with comic book firm Marvel Enterprises.

The company reiterated already-reduced forecasts for the current fiscal fourth quarter. It expects a net loss of 15 cents a share, on sales of $100 million. For the full year 2003, earnings are expected to reach 88 cents to 91 cents, on sales of $823 million to $839 million.

Looking ahead to the fiscal first quarter of 2004, the company slashed guidance. It now expects to earn 7 cents a share on sales of $130 million. For the full year 2004, Activision forecasts earnings of 70 cents a share and sales of $750 million. Its earlier expectations called for full-year earnings of 80 cents a share and sales of $823 million.

Ahead of the earnings report, Activision shares closed the day down 35 cents, or 2.4%, at $14.02. It tumbled another 32 cents, or 2.3%, to $13.70 in after-hours activity.