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Months After Layoffs, Activision-Blizzard Announces Cash Dividends for Stockholders

Three months after announcing mass layoffs at the company, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said Thursday that the company outperformed its outlook, making progress against that plan, and declared a cash dividend for common shareholders.

Net revenue for the quarter was $1.83 billion, down from $1.97 billion for the same period last year, the company reported in its first-quarter earnings report. The Board of Directors also declared a cash dividend of $0.37 per common share, payable on May 9, 2019 to shareholders on March 28, 2019, up 9% from 2018.

The plan outlined in February included laying off about 775 people — 8% of its 9,600-person staff — as it refocused its efforts on its Call of Duty, Candy Crush, Overwatch, Warcraft, Hearthstone and Diablo franchises.

At the time, the company called the move a de-prioritizing of initiatives that didn’t meet expectations. CEO Bobby Kotick said that the cuts would come from support staff while the company consolidates its commercial operations and reorganizes its marketing initiatives. Activision will be instead investing more in live services, Battle.net, eSports, and advertising efforts.

The company added it would be increasing development resources by 20 percent in 2019 on those franchises it is now focusing on. “The company will fund this greater investment by de-prioritizing initiatives that are not meeting expectations and reducing certain non-development and administrative-related costs across the business,” the publisher said in its earnings release.”

In Thursday’s earnings report, Kotick noted that the company is continuing to “enhance our leadership position in esports.” He pointed to strong growth in Overwatch League viewership and “enthusiastic demand for our professional, city-based Call of Duty league franchises.”

Activision announced on Thursday that it has sold the first five Call of Duty teams in Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Paris and Toronto to owners who “recognize the scale of the opportunity from their partnerships with us on the ‘Overwatch League.’”

While Activision Blizzard is moving forward with its plan to invest in increased development on their internally-owned franchise, as well as investing in platform expansion on PC and mobile and new geographies, that is all meant to “bear fruit in the future.”

Currently, the company remains focused on delivering in the near-term.

In reporting its earnings Thursday, Activision Blizzard pointed out that the company had 345 million monthly active users across the quarter, a bulk of which — 272 million — came from King. King’s user count was up for the second quarter in a row, thanks to the success of “Candy Crush Friends Saga,” according to the company.

The company also noted that “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” sold more than two million copies in less than 10 days and that the second season of the Overwatch League started in February to sell-out crowds at the Blizzard Arena. Viewership hours for the second season to date are over 30% higher than in the first season, according to the company.

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