Benchmark sees Activision Blizzard guidance affected by 'Fortnite'

Shares of Activision Blizzard (ATVI) were trading lower after an analyst from Benchmark said he expects the game maker to report strong first quarter earnings followed by disappointing second quarter guidance. BENCHMARK KEEPS BUY: In a research note to investors, Benchmark analyst Mike Hickey maintained a Buy rating and $80 price target on Activision Blizzard, saying he expects the company to report "strong" Q1 results on Thursday, May 3, followed by "disappointing" Q2 guidance while reiterating their fiscal 2018 performance view. Hickey said that the game giant's Q2 outlook will likely reflect caution over the rise of so-called battle royale games including Epic Games' "Fortnite," which are likely negatively affecting player engagement on "Overwatch" and "Call of Duty." The firm remains optimistic on the stock's medium-term earnings power, and would continue to opportunistically purchase shares, the analyst said. In particular, Hickey said that the Activision segment should have a "strong" product slate for fiscal 2018, with the release of "Call of Duty: Black Ops 4," while benefiting from live service monetization and paid downloadable content. WHAT'S NOTABLE: Gaming website Kotaku reported earlier this week that "Call of Duty: Black Ops 4" will essentially be multiplayer-only, excluding the kind of single-player campaign that has been a part of the franchise for over a decade. In addition, a source told Kotaku that the next "Call of Duty" will include a battle royale mode following the success of "Fortnite" and "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds." The mobile version of "PUBG" is published by Tencent Games (TCEHY) while the console version on Xbox One is published by Microsoft (MSFT). PRICE ACTION: In afternoon trading, Activision Blizzard shares are down 1.2% to $67.88. OTHERS TO WATCH: Shares of rivals Electronic Arts (EA) and Take-Two (TTWO) are down a respective 0.3% and 1.4% in the afternoon.

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