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Activision’s 4Q delivers

Results top guidance

HOLLYWOOD — A day after Electronic Arts and Atari sent their stocks down with disappointing news, Activision had something good to report: The No. 2 vidgame publisher beat its recently increased guidance in the fourth quarter.

Thanks to strong sales of titles like “Tony Hawk’s Underground” and “True Crime: Streets of L.A.,” Santa Monica-based company reported net revenue of $508.5 million in the last three months of 2003, its third fiscal quarter. That’s up 34% vs. the same quarter last year and beyond the $480 million it predicted when it increased guidance in mid-December.

Net income was $77 million, up 74% from a year ago.

Strong sales in the crucial holiday season led to Activision increasing guidance for fiscal 2004, which will end March 31. It expects to bring in a total of $910 million in net revenue for the year, with earnings per diluted share of 72¢.

Activision has a small slate skedded for the slow winter quarter, but several games licensed from Hollywood films will be released later this year and are key to its projections of $1 billion in net revenue in fiscal 2005. These include games based on Sony’s “Spider-Man 2” and DreamWorks’ “Shrek 2” and “Shark Tale.”

As Activision released a stronger forecast for the upcoming year, its biggest competitor, Electronic Arts, saw its stock fall nearly 5% Wednesday as investors reacted poorly to lower-than-expected net income projections for the current quarter, despite a record holiday season.

Vidgame publisher Atari fared far worse, with its stock tumbling 21% after it warned that fourth-quarter earnings would be lower than forecast and it pushed back the release of its highly anticipated “Driv3r” game.

Activision shares stayed roughly flat on Wednesday before earnings were released, closing up 0.2% at $18.

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