Take-Two's profits jump, Xbox San Andreas announced and dated

Sales of the latest Grand Theft Auto nearly triple quarterly earnings; publisher also offers to settle an SEC inquiry, evaluates the future of ESPN football games.

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Stellar sales from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas filled publisher Take-Two Interactive's coffers for the quarter ending October 31, 2004. Today, the company reported quarterly sales of $438 million, compared to $277.6 million for the same period a year ago. Net income for the quarter was $62.6 million, which also compares favorably to $26.3 million in 2003.

Take-Two's earnings announcement also had some major news for nonfinancial types. First, it revealed that the publisher will indeed release an Xbox version of San Andreas alongside the previously announced PC version. The company confirmed both the Xbox and PC versions of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas would carry a simultaneous release date of June 7, 2005 in North America. In Europe, the release will follow three days later, on June 10.

Additionally, the company said today that its upcoming PlayStation 2 title The Warriors, based on the cult classic 1979 gang movie, has been delayed to the same quarter. It also confirmed the delay of Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition to the January-March quarter of 2005.

Company officials also touched on the future of the ESPN football franchise, which, in the wake of Electronic Arts' exclusive deal with Players Inc., would have to be NFL-free. In its statement, Take-Two said, "While recent industry developments preclude the release of an officially licensed professional football title, the Company and SEGA are evaluating opportunities to publish a title based on the critically acclaimed 2K football game." Chairman and CEO Richard Roedel tried to put a more positive spin on the situation by reflecting on ESPN games' past. "We are pleased with our ESPN sports titles. We brought terrific energy to this product and proved that our approach to brand development and our distribution strengths are relevant to diverse markets," he told analysts during a conference call.

In other business, Take-Two announced it had offered to settle an SEC investigation into its accounting practices by paying a fine. In the statement, the company said it "accrued a $7.5 million expense in the fourth quarter associated with the Company's previously disclosed SEC investigation into certain accounting matters related to the Company's financial statements, periodic reporting and internal accounting controls. If approved, [a] proposed settlement would fully resolve all claims relating to the investigation by the SEC that began in December 2001. Pursuant to the offer of settlement, under which the Company would neither admit nor deny the allegations of the complaint, Take-Two would agree to pay a non-tax deductible civil penalty of $7.5 million and would be enjoined from future violations of the federal securities laws."

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