The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Take Two Interactive, Electronic Arts, Sony, Microsoft and ACE

Oct 22, 2013, 09:30 ET from Zacks Investment Research, Inc.

CHICAGO, Oct. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the Take Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO-Free Report), Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: EA-Free Report), Sony (NYSE: SNE-Free Report), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT-Free Report) and ACE Limited (NYSE: ACE-Free Report).


Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:

Video Game Sales Surge in September

Video game retail sales jumped significantly in September, primarily driven by higher software sales, which fully offset declining hardware sales in the month. According to market research firm NPD, sales surged 27.0% year over year to $1.08 billion. Sales were significantly up from $521.0 million reported in August and $443.0 million reported in July.

Software sales soared 52.0% year over year to $754.3 million, considerably higher than $293.4 million reported in August and $222.3 million reported in July. The strong growth was primarily driven by robust performance from Take Two Interactive's (Nasdaq: TTWO-Free Report) Grand Theft Auto V, which became the top-selling game of the month.

Electronic Arts' (Nasdaq: EA-Free Report) August release Madden NFL 25 was the #2 best-selling game, pushing Saints Row IV from Deep Silver to the #10 spot. NBA 2K14 from Take Two claimed the #3 position.

Despite declining 13.0% year over year to $183.2 million, hardware sales were much higher than $90.8 million reported in August and $99.4 million in July. Sony's (NYSE: SNE-Free Report) PlayStation 3 was the best console in terms of unit sales in the month, ending Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT-Free Report) reign at the top for 32 consecutive months. Nintendo's 3DS was the bestselling hardware platform in the month.

Digital Games Sales

According to market research firm Super Data, overall digital sales increased 6.0% year over year to $970.0 million in September. This was higher than $846.0 million reported in August but lower than $1.1 billion reported in Jul 2013.

Revenues from social games increased 16.0% year over year to $176.0 million, better than $166.0 million reported in August. Mobile gaming revenues surged 52.0% year over year and increased 14.0% on a month-over-month basis to $266.0 million. Monthly active users were 246 million at the end of September.

Free-to-play revenues were $249.0 million in the month, while subscriber base grew approximately 700K. Subscription based MMO revenues were $82.0 million, down from $88.0 million reported in August. However, subscriber base declined by 300K in September.

Downloadable game content sales decreased 23.0% year over year to $198.0 million in September.

Our Take

We expect video game retail sales to improve significantly over the next couple of months due to the launch of new hardware consoles from Microsoft and Sony and a host of new game releases such as Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Moreover, higher consumer spending during the holiday season will further boost sales in the near term.

We believe that increasing revenues from mobile and downloadable contents (DLCs) will drive digital revenues going forward. Mobile has strong growth potential due to improving gaming quality, which is a major factor behind higher user spending.

ACE Limited Upped to Outperform

On Oct 17, 2013, we upgraded our recommendation on ACE Limited (NYSE: ACE-Free Report) to Outperform as global expansion and acquisition strategies are expected to help the company come up with better numbers going forward.

Why the Upgrade?

Estimates for ACE Limited have been increasing ever since it reported second quarter results on Jul 23. ACE Limited's second-quarter operating net income came in at $2.29 per share that surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 19.27% as well as the year ago numbers by 5.5%.

Following the release of second quarter results, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 has gone up 2.1% to $8.64 per share. However, there was no change in the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2014. With the Zacks Consensus Estimates for 2013 going up, this property and casualty insurer and reinsurer now has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

Solid underwriting performances and growth in both the U.S. and international operations helped the company post better operating earnings in the second quarter of 2013. We believe the improved commercial property and casualty pricing environment will continue to aid results in the upcoming period.

Moreover, the acquisition initiatives of ACE Limited have always helped the company to boost inorganic growth and expand its global footprint. The recent approval by the Tunisian Ministry of Finance to commence operations in Tunisia deserves particular mention. This is because the go-ahead complements the company's global expansion strategy, particularly expansion in the Middle East and North Africa. The company has also been leveraging its solid footprint in Asia and Latin America to capitalize on the opportunities in these markets.

Further, ACE Limited boasts of a strong capital position that provides adequate financial flexibility to the company to manage its business and invest in its globally diversified platforms. This also helps the company to enjoy a solid track record of paying regular dividends that also exhibits an increasing trend every year and engage in share repurchase programs towards retaining investor confidence on the stock.

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

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