It’s coming next week, June 12 through June 14, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, commonly referred to as E3. This is the premier trade event for the video game industry. With gaming sales poised to grow an incredible 50% year over year in 2018, and to grow annually a stunning 27% between 2017 and 2020, there could be some big upside for the top companies in the industry.
A new Jefferies research report previews the E3 event, and analysts from the firm also will be in Los Angeles for all the action next week. The report noted this:
We remain broadly positive on the video game sector heading into E3; stocks historically have acted strongly for 2 months after this event. This year we don’t expect surprise announcements that would serve as major catalysts for these stocks. Rather we view E3 as the beginning of a multi-month period leading up to the important holidays, a period of time where these stocks have historically been strong.
Jefferies has the stock of three companies that will be there rated Buy, and while not suitable for everybody, they may be great additions to aggressive growth accounts.
This is a top pick across Wall Street and Jefferies remains very positive on it. Activision Blizzard Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI) develops and publishes online, personal computer (PC), video game console, handheld, mobile and tablet games worldwide. The company develops and publishes interactive entertainment software products through retail channels or digital downloads and downloadable content to a range of gamers.
The Jefferies analysts don’t expect any big announcements from Activision, which does not host a press event but will have a large presence on the E3 show floor with playable game demos. They do expect to hands-on time with key Activision Publishing games, most notably “Call of Duty Black Ops 4” (and its new Blackout mode) but also “Destiny 2.” The report noted this:
With its new Blackout mode, we think Black Ops 4 looks like the most exciting Call of Duty in years and we are optimistic ATVI will have a strong E3. In our group meeting we expect investors will focus on 1) upcoming mobile game launches, 2) the nascent advertising business, and 3) eSports.
Shareholders are paid just a 0.51% dividend. The Jefferies price target for the shares is $86, and the Wall Street consensus target is posted at $75.88. The stock traded on Friday at $74.00.
This leading video game developer should benefit from not only the continuing rise in new console sales but the rising trend of mobile gaming. Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) produces top-selling games and related content and services under the EA brand in various categories, including action-adventure, role-playing, racing and first-person shooter games.
Electronic Arts is realizing a greater percentage of revenues from digital platforms, which may enhance margins and lead to more sustainable revenue growth. Key franchises for the company include Madden, FIFA, Need for Speed, Battlefield, Star Wars Battlefront, Mass Effect, Dragon’s Age and The Sims.
The company reported outstanding results, and the analysts noted this:
Electronic Arts is now the third straight US video game publisher to post strong results despite Fortnite strength, suggesting Fortnite is more about expanding the market than cannibalizing it. The company’s guidance seems conservative and the fiscal 2019 setup seems very strong with the release slate anchored by FIFA and Battlefield, which are the company’s two biggest franchises. Over time, we believe games will become ubiquitous across all platforms and devices and cloud based services will increase the addressable market by four times.
The company will have a big E3 presence as well, and the analysts also noted this:
With the World Cup as a backdrop FIFA should be a standout. While we expect Battlefield V will be a big hit (and we note very easy year-over-year comps vs Star Wars), there is a risk gamers could push back against this game. Gamers’ can have long memories and EA did take a reputational hit last year with Star Wars Battlefield 2. With Anthem we are definitely more skeptical given 1) it is notoriously difficult to launch new-IP, 2) Anthem looks technically ambitious and potentially rushed, and 3) its spring launch window may be contested by other major releases such as UBI’s Tom Clancy’s The Division 2.
Jefferies has a price target of $155, and the consensus target was last seen at $143.24. The shares traded Friday at $136.95 apiece.
Take-Two Interactive Software
This is a top video game producer that has cashed in with some super-hot titles. Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO) is a publisher and distributor of interactive software for gaming platforms from Sony and Microsoft and for the PC. The company is headquartered in New York, with development studios located around the world. Key franchises include Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead, Civilization, Borderlands, and Bioshock, as well as several licensed sports products such as NBA and WWE.
The analysts had this to say on the company and its exposure at E3:
We expect minimal impact to the company’s stock given the lack of announcements. We still view Red Dead Redemption 2 as the most important game from any publisher in 2018 and we absolutely want to own this stock heading into that launch.
Think about this…we believe the launch of Grand Theft Auto V was a transformative event in the company’s history. Since launching in 2013, GTA V sold over 95 million units making it perhaps the all-time highest grossing and most profitable entertainment product for any form of media. Five years after launch the GTA franchise accounted for nearly 40% of the company’s fiscal 2018 revenue, proving these major franchises can deliver long, high-margin revenue tails.
The $145 Jefferies price target compares with the consensus price objective of $130.45. Shares were trading at $114.50.
The big three of gaming, and they will be out in full-force at the gigantic E3 event in Los Angeles. While it’s hard for some investors to wrap their arms around the significance of gaming, the short answer is it is massive, and it is expected to continue to exhibit huge growth for years to come.