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EA Sees Q4 Profit, Sales Up 14 Percent

Electronic Arts appears to have weathered something of a rough period over recent financial quarters, posting a $30 million profit in its fourth quarter and beating analyst expectations. [UPDATE: Outlook under estimates sends shares down.]
Major publisher Electronic Arts appears to have weathered something of a rough period over recent financial quarters, posting a profit in its fourth quarter and beating analyst expectations. Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Mass Effect 2, Dante’s Inferno and its digital business -- an area at the crux of its recent transition efforts -- helped drive the company to $979 million in sales, a 14 percent year over year increase, it said. EA saw a $30 million profit for the quarter, whereas in the same period last year, it reported a $42 million loss. Including deferred revenue and special items -- the non-GAAP number -- EA's sales add up to $850 million, up $241 million year over year, and its profits came in at $23 million as compared with a $120 million loss last year. "We had an excellent fourth quarter, driving record-breaking non-GAAP revenue in the fiscal year," said EA CEO John Riccitiello. "Battlefield: Bad Company 2 outperformed, which contributed to revenue at the high end of our guidance range, and we exceeded our expectations on the bottom line." The company's results have missed expectations regularly for nearly two years, but after a round of restructuring, SKU cuts and belt-tightening, Wedbush's Michael Pachter recently said the company appeared to be "on the right path", expressing optimism about the company's digital revenue strategy. EA now says it grew its digital revenue 33 percent to $570 million year over year, and expects to grow it another 30 percent in the year ahead. The company again asserts it's number one in publishing marketshare -- it touts a share of 19 percent, increased 1.7 points year over year, and says it's the number one third-party publisher on both Wii and PSP. The company has five games that topped five million units over the year: FIFA 10, Madden NFL 10, The Sims 3, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and Need for Speed Shift. The company's Battlefield 1943 has sold 1.5 million units via Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, which EA says makes it the best-selling console downloadable. Its Hasbro-branded titles have sold over 8 million units, the Sims brand has passed 125 million lifetime units, and FIFA 10 has topped 10 million units. The quarter ending March 31 also marked the end of EA's fiscal year; excluding deferred revenue and special items, the company's net revenue was down slightly year over year, $3.65 billion as compared with $4.21 billion the year previous. EA says it finished out the year with $766 million in deferred net revenue, up $505 million from a year ago. On the non-GAAP side, the company netted $4.16 billion in sales, a 2 percent year over year increase -- but saw a loss of $677 million. Nonetheless, it's much narrowed from last year's $1.09 billion net loss. EA says its restructuring in recent years resulted in a $140 million charge. [UPDATE: As an Associated Press article notes, Electronic Arts' financial outlook for the current quarter was for a loss of 35 cents to 40 cents per share on revenue of $460 million to $500 million. However, Wall Street had been forecasting a loss of 33 cents per share and revenue of $516.8 million, and as a result, shares are down around 4% to $18.02 in after-market trading.]

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