Ubisoft posts reduced six-month loss

French publisher $46.9 million in red despite strong GRAW sales, looks to Splinter Cell and Wii lineup for holiday hits.

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Today, Ubisoft reported its earnings for the six months ending September 30, 2006. The period saw the company enjoy strong continuing sales of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. US customers have scooped up more than 1.2 million copies of the third-person shooter since it went on sale March 9, nearly 900,000 of which were for the glowingly reviewed Xbox 360 version.

However, not even brisk sales of the latest Tom Clancy-inspired shooter could pull Ubisoft out of the red. During the six-month period, the first half of the Paris-based publisher's fiscal year, it posted an operating loss of 35.3 million euros ($46.9 million). While that was an improvement over the 43.7 million euro ($58.1 million) hit the company took during the same period in 2005, it came despite a 13 percent year-on-year spike in sales.

The increase in sales led Ubisoft to spin the numbers positively, with CEO Yves Guillemot saying, "The improvement in our results for the first half of the fiscal year reflects both a very good business performance and tight control of marketing expenditures." That said, the company did drop a cool 27 million euros ($35.9 million) to acquire the rights to the Driver and Far Cry licenses.

Given its holiday-heavy release slate, Ubisoft understandably tried to direct attention to the second half of its fiscal year, which ends on March 31, 2007. "The third quarter of [FY] 2006-07 is off to a good start," said Guillemot "with Red Steel and Rayman [Raving Rabbids] in the top five sales on the launch of the Wii, and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell [Double Agent] and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six [Vegas] returning to the front ranks."

The presumption that the aforementioned titles will do well led the publisher to raise its minimum sales growth target for the 2006-07 fiscal year from 8 to 10 percent.

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