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After announcing a management-led buyout of its biggest shareholder, game publisher Activision Blizzard disclosed its preliminary earnings for the second quarter today. With the buyout of Vivendi, Activision Blizzard can now finally behave like the behemoth that it is: the largest independent publisher in the video game industry.
Activision Blizzard, producers of the best-selling Call of Duty series, said it expects to report an estimated 8 cents a share on $608 million in non-GAAP revenue for the quarter. The earnings are slightly better than the 5 cents a share on $591 million in revenue that analysts expected.
The company will announce its full second-quarter results on Aug. 1 and hold its regular analyst call at that time. Activision said it was the No. 1 independent game publisher in North America and Europe combined, thanks to popular titles Skylanders Giants and Call of Duty Black Ops II. Both came out last fall but continue to sell accessories in the form of downloadable content for Call of Duty and toys for Giants. Activision also said that Blizzard’s World of Warcraft ended the quarter with 7.7 million subscribers, down from 8.3 million in the previous quarter.
The company raised its full-year GAAP revenue outlook to $4.31 billion and earnings per share to 77 cents, up from the prior estimate of $4.22 billion and EPS of 73 cents. Non-GAAP revenue is expected to be $4.25 billion and non-GAAP EPS is expected to be 82 cents. In after-hours trading on Thursday evening, the stock was frozen at $15.18 a share. Earlier in the day, the stock was down 1.3 percent.
The company said it is considering changing how it calculates non-GAAP financial results. Under the new management structure, Vivendi’s ownership of Activision Blizzard will fall from 60 percent to 12 percent, while a group led by co-chairmen Brian Kelly and Bobby Kotick will own a large chunk.
In a statement, Kotick said, “These transactions together represent a tremendous opportunity for Activision Blizzard and all its shareholders, including Vivendi. We should emerge even stronger—an independent company with a best-in-class franchise portfolio and the focus and flexibility to drive long-term shareholder value and expand our leadership position as one of the world’s most important entertainment companies. The transactions announced today will allow us to take advantage of attractive financing markets while still retaining more than $3 billion cash on hand to preserve financial stability.”
Mr. Kotick continued, “Our successful combination with Blizzard Entertainment five years ago brought together some of the best creative and business talent in the industry and some of the most beloved entertainment franchises in the world, including Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. Since that time, we have generated over $5.4 billion in operating cash flow and returned more than $4 billion of that to shareholders via buybacks and dividends. We are grateful for Vivendi’s partnership through this period, and we look forward to their continued support.”
Activision Blizzard will use $1.2 billion of its cash in the transaction and borrow $4.6 billion.