Activision Soars to Multiyear High, but Industry Faces Headwinds

24/7 Wall St.

Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI) shares soared Friday morning, following a better-than expected earnings report late Thursday due to strong game sales over the holidays, particularly of its Call of Duty series.

For the fourth quarter, the video game maker posted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.79 on revenues of $2.27 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported adjusted EPS of $0.78 on revenues of $2.59 billion. Fourth-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for $0.73 EPS and $2.22 billion in revenues.

However, for the first quarter the company forecast a profit of $0.09 per share, which is below consensus analysts' target of $0.11 per share.

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Competitor Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) posted disappointing results last week, citing a decline in sales of games for older consoles following the arrival of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles in November. EA's guidance also came in lower than the analysts had predicted.

Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. (TTWO) said earlier this week that strong Grand Theft Auto sales helped its fiscal third-quarter profit more than double, while revenue grew 90%. But again the current quarter forecast that was weaker than expected.

Analysts expect that spending on popular video games will continue in coming months as the new consoles become more widespread and publishers introduce fresh titles. We recently quoted one analyst who sees 30 million consoles by the end of 2014 and 50 million in total by the end of 2015. That is good news for the industry in the long run. But in the mean time is appears that the game makers still face some headwinds.

Shares of Activision Blizzard were up 14.7% in late morning trading Friday to $19.69, after earlier hitting a multiyear high of $19.95.

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EA and Take-Two shares were up about 2% and 1%, respectively, in late morning trading. And video game retailer GameStop Corp. (GME) also saw its shares jump after the opening bell, only to fall back again.

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