Activision expects record-breaking revenues

California-based publisher reports record preliminary net revenues for its fourth quarter and fiscal year ended March 31.

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After a record holiday season, publisher Activision has beaten even its own revised estimates for the January to March quarter and is now predicting $313 million coming in revenue. The company's original estimate on January 25 was $170 million, which it revised at the beginning of February to $200 million--but is now expected to be some $113 million more.

Perhaps more impressively, preliminary figures indicate net revenues for the full fiscal year reached $1.51 billion. That's slightly up over the previous year's figures of $1.47 billion, and the company's outlook of $1.40 billion. That represents the highest full-year revenue total in Activision's history, which the company attributed in part to Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Call of Duty 3, and Tony Hawk's Project 8.

Strong Q4 figures were credited to the success of Guitar Hero II and Call of Duty 3, as well as "better-than-expected performance of the company's distribution business due to the European launch of the PlayStation 3."

However, it wasn't all positive news for Activision. The publisher also provided an update into its ongoing stock-options scandal, and said it would be redoing the books to reflect that it had given employees an additional $67 million in stock-based compensation over a 13-year period. The company expects its full fourth quarter earnings to be "significantly impacted" by expenses related to the scandal, from internal investigations to legal fees.

Activision also stated that it did not expect to report its full financial results before the end of May, by which time it hoped to complete its stock-options review and file amended financial statements. It has also been given an extension by NASDAQ to regain listing compliance, originally due on May 9.

Analyst reaction was quick--and thoroughly positive. NCPI's Todd Greenwald reiterated his "Buy" recommendation. "While expectations are high for this company, and everyone likely knew they would beat numbers, the magnitude of this beat is certainly above expectations," he commented.

Lazard Capital Markets also maintained its "Buy" recommendation. "More important than March quarter results, we believe Activision remains well positioned for strong growth in financial year 2008," analyst Colin Sebastian said in a note. "[The year will be] driven by a robust product release schedule, including [upcoming] releases Spider-Man 3 and Shrek the Third, the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero, and Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam on the PS2."

However, the upbeat outlook did not buoy Activision's stock. As of press time, the publisher's shares were actually trading down $0.08 at $20.77 a share on the NASDAQ.

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