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How Much Higher Analysts Now See Activision Blizzard Rising

Activision Blizzard Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI) absolutely owned its most recent earnings report. As a result, analyst calls came pouring in for the video game giant, all very positive on the outlook for the rest of 2015.

First of all, the company reported its second-quarter financial results after the markets closed on Tuesday. The company had $0.13 in earnings per share (EPS) on $759 million in revenue. That compared to Thomson Reuters consensus estimates of $0.08 in EPS on revenue of $665.53 million. In the same period of the previous year, it posted EPS of $0.06 and $658.00 million in revenue.

In the same report, Activision Blizzard updated guidance for both the third quarter and the 2015 full year. Activision Blizzard expects $0.14 in EPS on $930 million for the third quarter, versus consensus estimates of $0.14 in EPS on $873.03 million in revenue. For the full year, the company expects $1.30 in EPS on $4.6 billion in, compared to consensus estimates of $1.23 in EPS on $4.47 billion in revenue.

Blizzard confirmed that “Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void” is now set for release in fiscal 2015. Despite a new content release for World of Warcraft at the end of the second quarter, subscribers declined 1.5 million sequentially. The highlight of the quarter, according to Credit Suisse, was the strong debut of Heroes of the Storm, which was believed to have roughly 20 million users after its June 2015 release. The fiscal 2015 profitability estimates head higher as “Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void” is pulled from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2015, as well as a higher attach rate assumption for the upcoming Destiny DLC (Taken King). That said, the more material and interesting change to Activision’s growth trajectory is from Heroes of the Storm, which Credit Suisse suspects will soon overtake Hearthstone in terms of revenue contribution.

Credit Suisse has an Outperform rating and raised its target price to $35 from $30. At the same time the firm updated its earnings per share (EPS) and revenue estimates for fiscal 2015 to $1.30 per share and $4.583 billion, respectively. Also Credit Suisse raised its EPS estimates for fiscal 2016 to $1.54 from $1.42 and fiscal 2017 to $1.83 from $1.66.

The firm noted that the confluence of better catalog sales, higher-than-expected attach rates for “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” and Destiny DLC, as well as a strong debut for Heroes of the Storm drove the better-than-expected second-quarter results.

Separately, Merrill Lynch raised its price objective to $31 from $30 on a higher 2016 EPS estimate of $1.53 and unchanged 20-times price-to-earnings multiple. With an achievable 2015 outlook, the firm remains positive on Activision Blizzard due to an attractive valuation and big EPS growth potential in 2016. With cash flow being put to work (dividends, debt paydown) and a variety of digital franchises ramping, the firm thinks positive sentiment on 2016 could continue to build.

Merrill Lynch described its investment rationale as:

Activision is an Interactive entertainment industry leader with a strong title portfolio and the leading position in the Online/MMO space post Vivendi merger. Growth drivers are new PC titles from Blizzard, new franchises such a Destiny, and console digital revenues. Given the opportunities for new franchises in early stage of the console cycle, offset by Activision’s modest growth profile, we think the stock should trade at a 15-20x forward P/E.

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A few other analysts weighed in on Activision Blizzard after earnings:

  • Ascendiant Capital has a Buy rating and raised its price target to $33 from $30.
  • Baird has an Outperform rating and raised its price target to $30 from $27.
  • Barclays has an Overweight rating and raised its price target to $30 from $27.
  • Brean Capital has a Buy and raised its price target to $32 from $30.
  • Jefferies has a Buy rating and raised its price target to $33 from $26.
  • Mizuho has a Buy rating and raised its price target to $31 from $29.
  • MKM Partners has a Buy rating and raised its price target to $32 from $30.
  • Cowen raised its price target to $28 from $27.
  • Wedbush raised price target to $37 from $31.

Shares of Activision Blizzard were up 13.1% to $29.04 Wednesday afternoon. The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $28.69 and a 52-week trading range of $17.73 to $29.20.

By Chris Lange