Ubisoft reports $1.5B in earnings, reveals 3 mystery games

French publisher beats thrice-upwardly revised projections; annual profit jumps by $108 million on Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Assassin's Creed sales; one unnamed all-new IP and two new franchise installments in the pipe.

At the end of March, Ubisoft revised its annual earnings projections for the third time to €920 million ($1.44 billion), following better-than-expected sales of Assassin's Creed and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2. Today, the Paris-based publisher released its final full-year earnings, which revealed that its massive estimate was conservative.

For the 12 months ended March 31, Ubisoft saw €928.3 million ($1.46 billion) in earnings, a hefty 36 percent increase over the €680.3 million ($1.06 billion) it took in the year prior. Even more impressive was that the company almost tripled its profits, from €40.5 million ($63.59 million) to €109.8 million ($172.34 million).

The profits came despite Ubisoft dropping €48 million ($75.37 million) on acquisitions of "tangible and intangible assets," including the outright purchase of a new studio in Pune, India. (The company also started up three other internal shops in Singapore, Kiev, and the recently earthquake-ravaged Chinese city of Chengdu.) A further €18 million ($28.26 million) was expended to obtain the Sunflowers, Anno, and Digital Kids licenses.

According to the company's report, the €48 million ($75.37 million) acquisition expenditure includes the first of four payments to author Tom Clancy, whose brand name Ubisoft bought in March. Though the publisher did not specify how much of the amount went to Clancy, the steep price appears to be worth it. News of the deal sent Ubisoft's shares soaring, and the company estimates that owning the Clancy name will save it €5 million ($7.85 million) in royalty payments even after paying the author. For the year ended March 31, Ubisoft spent €25.3 million ($39.75 million) in royalties on its licensed-game portfolio, which, though dominated by Clancy, also included the movie tie-in TMNT and Xbox 360 Naruto games.

With a few exceptions, the Clancy deal gives Ubisoft ownership of all Clancy-branded book, film, comic, merchandising, and "ancillary products." Naturally, it also includes full ownership of all games bearing the Hunt for Red October author's name--and Ubisoft praised the "strength" of Clancy franchises Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six as keys to its record year. Other franchises that Ubisoft singled out were Rayman, Settlers, and (again) Assassin's Creed, which has sold over 6 million units on all platforms. Casual games were also big, with the Petz games topping 8 million units, and the Imagine line surpassing 4 million units sold.

Today's report also revealed that Ubisoft has several all-new games up its sleeve. "Going forward, 2008-09 is set to be another record year for Ubisoft," CEO Yves Guillemot said in a statement. "We now have 14 multimillion-unit-selling franchises and will be launching 5 new IPs during the period as well as new brands in the casual games segment." (Emphasis added.)

A slide presentation that accompanyied the report named four of the all-new IPs--H.A.W.X., EndWar, Shaun White Snowboarding, and the recently launched Haze--with the fifth being identified only as an "unannounced title." The same slide also revealed that two as-yet-untitled installments in existing franchises will also be released during the year, alongside Far Cry 2, Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, Splinter Cell: Conviction, the just-announced new Prince of Persia, and a new Anno game.

For the coming 2008-2009 fiscal year, Ubisoft is forecasting revenues of €1 billion ($1.57 billion), with €154 million ($241.78 million) in sales during the current quarter. Today's report was released after trading ended on the EuroNext market, on which Ubisoft shares closed at €68.47 ($107.51). According to the Associated Press, that gives the publisher a market capitalization of around €3.2 billion ($5 billion)--around 20 percent of which is still owned by Electronic Arts.

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