Take-Two losses top $50 million, GTAIV ships 13 million

"Unusual" costs offset Grand Theft Auto publisher's increased sales during November-January quarter; Beaterator, Borderlands, Mafia 2, BioShock 2, Red Dead Redemption, and next GTAIV expansion all due pre-Halloween.

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Ever since analyst Michael Pachter upgraded his rating of Take-Two Interactive to "buy" last week, the publisher's share price has been slowly rising skyward. Just today, shares in the company rose nearly 14 percent to hit $6.85 at the closing bell--nearly $2 more than where it was when Pachter issued his prognostication.

"13 million copies? The cabaret tickets are on me, Roman!"

All that changed at about 4:30 p.m. Eastern time, when Take-Two's share price began to sink in after-hours trading. The drop was precipitated by the New York-based publisher issuing its earnings report for the November-January quarter, the first of its fiscal year. On one hand, the three-month period saw the company take in $256.8 million in revenues, a 7 percent increase from $240.4 million during the same period the prior year. On the other, losses for the quarter totaled $50.4 million ($0.66 per share), up from $38 million ($0.52 per share) the year prior.

Take-Two blamed the increased loss on stock-based compensation, bigger marketing and development expenses, and $4.9 million in "unusual" legal bills. The company did not say if the bills were related to its successful foiling of a takeover bid by Electronic Arts last year.

Of Take-Two's Nov.-Jan. revenues, some $60 million was from Grand Theft Auto games, including the blockbuster Grand Theft Auto IV. The company also announced today that the critically lauded Rockstar Games open-world crime adventure has now shipped some 13 million units worldwide on the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Take-Two CFO Lainie Goldstein said that international sales of PS3 and 360 versions of the game are "50/50." In the US, where the game has sold--not shipped--more than 5.5 million copies, the NPD Group shows the 360 leading the PS3 by around 1 million units.

Unfortunately, in a conference call with analysts after the report, Goldstein declined to offer sales figures for GTAIV's Xbox 360-exclusive expansion, The Lost and Damned. In the aforementioned note, Pachter estimated that the add-on has already sold 1 million units and would sell 2 million by the end of Take-Two's fiscal year on October 31.

Looking ahead to that year, Take-Two executives revealed that the Timbaland-produced PSP game Beaterator--first announced in March 2007--will finally arrive this summer. The season will also see 2K Sports release The Bigs 2 from Dead Rising 2 developer Blue Castle, followed by NBA 2K10 and NHL 2K10 in the fall. They also confirmed that Borderlands, Mafia II, BioShock 2, Red Dead Redemption, and the second GTAIV 360-exclusive expansion would all arrive before Halloween.

In terms of guidance, Take-Two expects to take in $200 to $220 million dollars in revenue during the February-April quarter, for a loss of $0.10 or $0.20 per share. For its full fiscal year, the company expects $1.1 to $1.25 billion dollars in revenues, with per-share earnings ranging from $0.00 to $0.20.

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