Interplay misses 4Q estimates

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Interplay Entertainment (Nasdaq: IPLY) lost more than analysts expected in the fourth quarter.

After market close Tuesday, the game software company reported a fourth quarter loss of $7.8 million, or 29 cents per share. First Call's survey of two analysts predicted a loss of 8 cents per share for the quarter ended Dec. 31.

Excluding a non-operating charge of $4 million related to reserves against a deferred tax asset, Interplay lost $3.8 million, or 13 cents per share.

Fourth quarter revenue of $27.3 million represented a 33 percent improvement over sales of $20.6 million in the year ago period, when Interplay lost $16.6 million, or 91 cents per share.

For the full year, Interplay lost $40 million, or $1.78 per share, on revenue of $101.9 million.

Failure to release two titles, Messiah and Giants, as planned for 1999 hurt operating results, the company said. Delays in the Torment game, which wasn't released until late December, also affected the bottom line.

"1999 will go down as a year when Interplay was able to change course 180 degrees and develop into a new company," said Brian Fargo, CEO and chairman. "We came up short of our goal of returning to profitability within the year, but succeeded in completing key strategic transactions with Virgin Interactive Entertainment Limited and Titus Interactive S.A. that played a key part in restructuring and strengthening Interplay for the future."

Interplay, which historically has concentrated mainly on PC games, plans to improve its focus on console titles, Fargo said.

About 67 percent of Interplay's fourth quarter revenue was PC-related, followed by 17.8 percent among consoles and 15.2 percent from OEM contracts, royalties and licensing. Interplay in the fourth quarter released a dozen titles, including 11 for PCs.

Shares of Interplay rose 5/16 to 3 7/8 in Tuesday's regular trading. Among three analysts polled by Zack's Investment Research, two maintain the equivalent of "hold" advisories on Interplay and one has a "moderate buy" recommendation on the stock.

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