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AG Edwards: Layoffs Expected For Take-Two Studios

Ahead of Take-Two's April 10th conference call on the future of the company, AG Edwards has said it expects the publisher will make a number of near term changes, including layoffs at underperforming studios and re-evaluation of many third-party vendor re
Ahead of Take-Two's April 10th conference call on the future of the company, AG Edwards has said it expects the publisher will make a number of near term changes, including layoffs at underperforming studios and re-evaluation of many third-party vendor relationships. The conference call will be the first since the recent ousting of most of Take-Two's high level executives, and will largely focus on, says AG Edwards, the future of standing CFO Karl Winters, an update on the search for a permanent CEO, and the company's new overarching strategy for improviing profitability. The firm expects that apart from the sale of its distribution arm Jack of All Games, other near-term changes will include "lowering headcount (particularly at under-performing studios), evaluation of third party vendor relationships and real estate costs, and more stringent green light process." It also posits that the recently announced price cuts for Sony's PSP handheld should help the publisher more than others, with 15 percent of its holiday sales coming from PSP titles, a fair step up from Electronic Arts, THQ and Activision, which saw 9, 6, and 4 percent of their own holiday sales from the platform. In the console sphere, the firm also sees Take-Two being much more aggressive with development for the Wii, with three titles planned for this year including RockStar's Manhunt 2, a new Fantastic Four title, and arcade baseball game The Bigs. The company does not forsee GTA IV making its way to Nintendo's console, though. Concluding, Edwards said of its 'hold/speculative' rating on the company, "In recent years, through focused acquisitions and partnerships, the company has made successful strides to diversify by entering the sports genre and improving its position in the PC market. However, during this same time, the company has been the subject of significant controversy, including investigations from the Manhattan District Attorney, SEC, as well as numerous class action lawsuits." "We are cautious on Take-Two’s prospect," the firm continued, "considering there is still a reliance on the Grand Theft Auto franchise and the company has been unable to leverage diversification efforts into increased profitability. The company’s continual missteps, including several investigations and class-action lawsuits, have also provided overhang to the stock. We feel that these issues warrant a Hold rating and Speculative suitability."

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