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EA's stock drops as guidance falls below estimates

Electronic Arts Inc.'s shares closed at a record high on Feb. 2 before declining in extended trading after the company reported holiday-quarter profits that were below expectations and forecast a net loss for its fiscal fourth quarter.

Hours before EA's earnings announcement, the video game publisher announced it is returning to the Sports College Football franchise with EA Sports set to be the exclusive developer of new titles. EA's stock spiked on the news before closing at a record $148.97. In after-hours trading, shares declined more than 4.5%.

Speaking during the company's earnings conference call, CEO Andrew Wilson said EA Sports is already working on a new next-generation College Football video game in collaboration with collegiate trademark licensing company CLC. EA Sports also renewed its deal to be the exclusive partner of the UEFA Champions League football organization, Wilson said.

"We will grow the EA Sports portfolio to include experiences in more sports for more fans around the world," Wilson said. "In the weeks and months ahead, we'll make more announcements about our expansion in different sports, including at least one new experience that will launch next fiscal year."

The CEO also touted EA's pending acquisition of U.K.-based gaming company Codemasters Group Holdings PLC, which would add the Formula One racing franchise under EA Sports' portfolio.

Wilson said EA is awaiting the results of Codemasters' shareholder vote on the proposed acquisition, which is expected to arrive Feb. 3.

Turning to EA's game subscription business, Wilson said the integration of EA Play with Microsoft Corp.'s Game Pass service has helped boost the total number of subscribers on EA Play to nearly 13 million.

"With more players valuing the subscription model and with our scale across platforms and content, we are building a strong growing business with recurring revenue," Wilson said. "We also have new streaming players joining our network through Xbox cloud gaming with Game Pass Ultimate and other partners, and we are committed to advancing cloud as a meaningful part of the future of the gaming ecosystem."

EA's fiscal third-quarter net income came to $211 million, or 72 cents per share, down from year-ago net income of $346 million, or $1.18 per share. The consensus EPS estimate for the quarter was 78 cents on a GAAP basis and $2.95 on a normalized basis.

Net revenue for the quarter totaled $1.67 billion, up from prior-year revenue of $1.59 billion and above the company's guidance of $1.68 billion. Full game revenue for the quarter was up year over year to $722 million, while live services and other revenue grew to $951 million.

Net bookings — the net amount of products and services sold digitally or sold-in physically in the period — totaled $2.40 billion, above the company's guidance of $2.35 billion. EA calculates its net bookings by adding total net revenue to the change in deferred net revenue for online-enabled games and mobile platform fees.

Looking ahead to the company's fiscal fourth quarter ending March 31, EA expects total net revenue of about $1.32 billion and a net loss of $19 million, or 7 cents per share. This forecast includes the impact of an incremental tax accounting charge of $152 million. Net bookings for the quarter is expected to be about $1.38 billion.

For fiscal year 2021, EA expects net revenue of about $5.60 billion, down from its initial forecast of $5.63 billion. The company also lowered its full-year net income forecast to $742 million from $942 million and EPS forecast to $2.54 from $3.15. However, EA now expects net bookings to total about $6.08 billion, up from its previous forecast of $5.95 billion.

Additionally, EA declared a quarterly cash dividend of 17 cents per share of the company's common stock. The dividend is payable March 24 to shareholders of record as of the close of business March 3.