Electronic Arts Jumps as Results Top Analyst Estimates

Electronic Arts Inc., the No. 2 U.S. video-game maker, posted fiscal fourth-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates as it led the industry in sales for a new generation of consoles. The shares jumped as much as 19 percent.

Profit excluding some items totaled 48 cents a share, Redwood City, California-based Electronic Arts said yesterday in a statement. That topped the 11-cent average of 23 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales, excluding changes in deferred revenue, fell 12 percent to $914 million in the period ended March 31, exceeding the $812 million projection.

The results cap a year in which the company under new Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wilson made progress toward its goal of becoming a top provider of games sold online rather than through retail stores. Digital revenue accounted for 45 percent of sales, said Blake Jorgensen, EA’s chief financial officer.

“Digital, for us, is the focus,” Jorgensen said. “We’re building more and more live services associated with our games, and we’re also seeing continued growth in full-game downloads.”

The shares surged 18 percent to $33.07 at 9:41 a.m. in New York, after earlier reaching $33.24 for the biggest intraday gain since January 2001. Through yesterday, the stock had advanced 22 percent this year.

Upgraded Consoles

The company benefited during the quarter from a strong slate of titles for Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox One and Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 4 game consoles. FIFA 14, Titanfall and Battlefield 4 were three of the top five best-selling titles across all platforms in the U.S., Canada and Europe, Jorgensen said.

Electronic Arts issued a muted forecast when it reported earnings last quarter, citing uncertainty about sales of older-generation titles as consumers began to shift to Microsoft’s and Sony’s upgraded consoles starting in November.

Net income rose 14 percent to $367 million, or $1.15 a share. For the full fiscal year, net income dropped 92 percent to $8 million, or 3 cents a share. Annual sales excluding changes in deferred revenue rose 5.9 percent to $4.02 billion.

Electronic Arts also announced a $750 million share repurchase program through May 2016.

In the current quarter, the company expects to benefit from a World Cup football title for older-generation consoles and a UFC fighting game featuring kung fu legend Bruce Lee, Jorgensen said.

The company forecast a loss of 5 cents a share before some items for the fiscal first quarter on sales of about $700 million.

Activision Blizzard Inc., the largest video-game maker, also reported quarterly earnings yesterday.

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