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Take-Two lowers earnings forecast amid GTA 5 release date limbo

Publisher posts $12m loss for the second quarter; Revenue exceeds expectations

Take-Two has revised down its annual sales forecast, but has not specified by how much. Its latest financial report also provides clues that could help determine the release date of Grand Theft Auto 5.

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For the period between July and September, the company brought in $273 million; a significant increase from its performance during the same period last year ($107 million). Yet expenses pulled that to a loss of $12.4 million, compared to the $47 million profit it made a year ago.

Take-Two, like EA and many other digitally focused publishers, has challenges with presenting its full business performance under strict accounting principals. If certain deferred and digital sales are factored in, the company said it brought in about $288 million which resulted in $10 million profit.

Company chairman Strauss Zelnick said the better-than-expected revenue was "driven by the breakout success of 2K's Borderlands 2, robust demand for our catalog and digitally delivered offerings".

GTA V release date limbo

Take-Two has been cryptic in presenting its revised down full-year earnings forecast by adopting a different method of measuring performance - essentially mixing apples and oranges.

In July, the company said it would make $1.8 billion in revenue for the year ending March 31st, though it now expects to make $1.15 billion. That loss would likely be attributed to the fact that Grand Theft Auto 5 would be released after March 31st.

However, the way in which the numbers are presented adds an element of uncertainty. The $1.8 billion target previously set was measured via GAAP (generally accepted accounting principals) - a strict framework in which companies must disclose their data. Yet the revised down figure of $1.15 was presented in non-GAAP - a useful yet highly flexible manner of presenting data.

This means that, while it is highly likely GTA 5 will be released after March 31st (or very close to that date), it is not completely certain yet.

Zelnick nevertheless suggested that FY14, which begins in April, would take the lion's share of GTA sales: "Moreover, with Grand Theft Auto V slated for spring 2013, we are poised to generate substantial revenue and earnings growth in fiscal year 2014."

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