Electronic Arts Jumps Most in 24 Years on Turnaround

Electronic Arts Inc. rose the most in more than two decades after posting profit gave investors confidence that a turnaround under Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wilson is gaining strength.

Fiscal fourth-quarter, excluding some items totaled 48 cents a share, Redwood City, California-based Electronic Arts, the No. 2 U.S. video-game publisher, said yesterday in a statement. That topped the 11-cent average of 23 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

With Wilson at the helm, EA is leading the industry in sales for a new generation of video-game consoles. The quarterly results also cap a year in which the company moved toward its goal of becoming a top provider of titles sold online rather than through retail stores. The previous CEO, John Riccitiello, was ousted in March 2013 after several earnings disappointments.

“Management is making significant progress toward beating growth and margin goals,” Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Baird & Co., said in a research note. “In addition, we believe execution is improving on digital, while mobile growth continues.”

Sales, excluding changes in deferred revenue, fell 12 percent to $914 million in the period ended March 31, exceeding the $812 million projection. 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 21 percent to $33.95 in New York, the biggest gain since October 1990. The stock has advanced 48 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 strong quarterly earnings yesterday.

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