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Earnings Results: Activision Blizzard stock drops more than 10% following light outlook, game delays

Activision Blizzard Inc. shares sank in the extended session Tuesday after the videogame publisher’s lighter-than-expected outlook and expected delay of two games eclipsed an earnings beat and commitments to a safe and equitable work environment.

After initially rising about 4% in after-hours trading immediately following the results, Activision Blizzard
ATVI,
-2.12%

shares sank more than 10% over the course of the earnings call. Shares fell 2.1% to close the regular session at $77.67 to give Activision Blizzard a $60.4 billion market cap.

The company said it expects fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of 62 cents a share on revenue of $2.02 billion and bookings of $2.78 billion. The company also raised its full-year forecast to earnings of $3.70 a share on revenue of $8.66 billion and bookings of $8.65 billion, compared with its quarter-ago forecast of $3.54 a share on revenue of $8.52 billion and bookings of $8.65 billion for the year.

Analysts, however, estimated earnings of $1.38 a share on revenue of $2.91 billion and bookings of $2.89 billion for the fourth quarter, and earnings of $3.83 a share on revenue of $8.79 billion and bookings of $8.76 billion for the year.

Activision Blizzard Chief Financial Officer Armin Zerza said on the call “we remain prudent in our revenue assumption for the fourth quarter, and regarding costs we have decided to further step up investment in mobile marketing given the strong returns we are currently seeing and compliance in the organization.”

For the fourth quarter, Activision Blizzard said it will roll out “Call of Duty: Vanguard” on Friday, and the franchise’s “Warzone Pacific” update on Dec. 5. Other anticipated titles, however, are getting delayed.

“While we are still planning to deliver a substantial amount of content from Blizzard next year, we are now planning for a later launch for ‘Overwatch 2’ and ‘Diablo IV’ than originally envisaged,” Daniel Alegre, the company’s chief operating officer, said on the call. “These are two of the most eagerly anticipated titles in the industry, and our teams have made great strides towards completion in recent quarters.”

Delays in releases have become more commonplace as publishers seek to avoid releasing games that may still have bugs, especially since CD Projekt SA’s 
CDR,
-0.26%

long-awaited and long-overdue release last year of “Cyberpunk 2077” that forced distributors like Sony Group Corp. 
6758,
+0.22%

 to offer full refunds.

The company reported third-quarter net income of $639 million, or 82 cents a share, compared with $604 million, or 78 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Activision said adjusted earnings, which exclude share-based compensation expenses and other items, rose 89 cents a share from 88 cents a share in the year-ago period.

Revenue rose to $2.07 billion from $1.95 billion in the year-ago quarter, while bookings increased to $1.88 billion from $1.77 billion last year. Bookings represent the value of digital products and services sold during a quarter, but part of the revenue from those purchases is often recognized in future quarters.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet had forecast 70 cents a share on revenue of $1.88 billion and bookings of $1.87 billion, based on the company’s forecast of 75 cents a share on revenue of $1.97 billion and bookings of $1.85 billion.

Read: Videogame stocks are in the bargain bin, but earnings could mean new life

On the conference call, Bobby Kotick, Activision Blizzard’s chief executive, acknowledged the company fired more than 20 employees related to allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination over the past quarter, and that it is waiving arbitration requirements for future claims of harassment and discrimination. Kotick also said the company plans to increase the number of women and non-binary employees by 50% within the next five years, so they comprise about one-third of the workforce.

“Right now workplace leadership is my focus,” said Bobby Kotick, Activision Blizzard’s chief executive, on the call. “Our opportunities for growth as we’ve talked about have never been better, but we won’t be able to realize all that growth potential without talent. And to retain and attract the talent we need, we obviously have to be recognized as the very best place to work. This means we have to be the best welcoming inclusive environment.”

Kotick also noted a 2020 review of pay equity from an outside firm showed that “women on average earned slightly more than men for comparable work in 2020,” and that Activision Blizzard was committed to equitable pay. 

Activision Blizzard publishes such games as  “Call of Duty” through its Activision label; “World of Warcraft,” “Overwatch,” and “Diablo” through its Blizzard label, and “Candy Crush” through its King label. Last week, Activision Blizzard announced it had acquired Barcelona-based mobile game developer Digital Legends for an undisclosed price.

Take-Two Interactive Inc.
TTWO,
+0.08%
,
Electronic Arts Inc.
EA,
-1.13%
,
and Playtika Holding Corp.
PLTK,
-0.54%

are scheduled to report earnings on Wednesday.

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