GameStop's profit forecast disappoints, shares fall

Reuters

* Earnings outlook disappoints

* Warns of console "uncertainty" in Q4

* Shares slide

By Chandni Doulatramani and Malathi Nayak

Nov 21 (Reuters) - GameStop Corp forecastworse-than-expected earnings for the crucial holiday quarter,dashing hopes that new game consoles from Sony Corp andMicrosoft Corp will fire up sales for the U.S.videogames retailer.

Shares in the company slid 6 percent even after the companyraised its full-year profit outlook, as many investors had hopedfor an even stronger finish to 2013, driven by the first newgaming consoles in years from the industry's top hardwaremanufacturers.

The fourth quarter typically accounts for a big chunk of thecompany's annual revenue and earnings. On Thursday, the companysaid it expected fourth-quarter earnings of $1.97 to $2.14 pershare, falling short of the $2.15 that analysts had expected onaverage.

Making a forecast for 2013's final quarter was difficult,despite a promising start to sales of the just-launchedPlayStation 4 from Sony and strong pre-orders of the Xbox Onefrom Microsoft, GameStop Chief Executive Officer Paul Rainessaid .

"When we start estimating console cycles, we understand thatthere are always allocation challenges, import challenges sowe've tried to make what is a reasonable expectation of growthfor the fourth quarter. But some investors want us to be evenmore aggressive," Raines said.

Despite exercising caution, the company expects to end theyear on a high note, driven by sales of new consoles and gamesthis holiday season. It raised its full-year earnings per shareforecast to a new range of $3.08 to $3.25, from $3.00 to $3.20previously.

The company also raised its outlook for full-year comparablesales growth to 1.5 percent to 4.5 percent, from a previousforecast of down 3.5 percent to up 1.5 percent.

Some investors might have been disappointed as they expectedmore from GameStop over the holidays, Sean McGowan, an analystat Needham & Co, said.

"But the fact is they are on the cusp of a very strongproduct cycle, which should leave the outlook for 2014 and 2015very rosy," McGowan said.

Sales of videogame products such as consoles have beenpressured by lower-priced online offerings and as gamers spendmore time on tablet computers and phones. But the arrival of newgame consoles -- after a gap of eight years-- and games shouldreignite the market, analysts say.

Total U.S. sales of videogame hardware and software rose 5percent in October from a year earlier, slowing from 27 percentgrowth in September, according to market research firm NPD.

GameStop reported net income of $68.6 million, or 58 centsper share, in the third quarter, compared with $47.2 million, or38 cents per share, a year earlier. The Grapevine, Texas-basedcompany said revenue rose to $2.11 billion.

Analysts had expected earnings of 57 cents per share onrevenue of $1.98 billion.

Third-quarter software sales rose about 43 percent, fueledby robust sales of Take-Two Interactive Software's blockbuster Grand Theft Auto V. Hardware sales rose about 15percent, driven by sales of Nintendo's 3DS and 2DShandhelds, the company said.

GameStop shares, which have risen nearly 6 percent in thelast three months, relinquished most of those gains on Thursdayand were down at $49.50 in the afternoon.

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