France's Ubisoft sees "solid" bookings growth after swinging back to profit

FILE PHOTO: Attendees play Roller Champions by UbiSoft Entertainment at the Paris Games Week (PGW), a trade fair for video games in Paris, France, October 29, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

(Reuters) -French video games group Ubisoft expects "solid" growth in net bookings during the current financial year, it said on Wednesday, as it prepares for the launch of new titles "Star Wars Outlaws" and "Assassin's Creed Shadows".

The family-run company also expects full-year non-IFRS operating profit to increase slightly. For the company's first quarter to end-June, net bookings should total around 275 million euros ($298.60 million), it added.

"This very promising line-up gives us confidence in our ability to achieve the financial targets we have set ourselves for 2024-2025," CFO Frederick Duguet said during a call with journalists.

Ubisoft said it had swung to an operating profit for the full year to end-March as record annual and fourth-quarter bookings helped it reverse a year-earlier loss of 500 million euros, its biggest ever.

Full-year net bookings jumped 33.5% to 2.31 billion euros, with non-IFRS operating income at 401.5 million euros ($435.35 million).

"Our full-year 2024 results confirm that Ubisoft is back on track on its profitable growth trajectory", CEO Yves Guillemot said in a statement.

During the year, the company reported strong growth in both the "Rainbow Six" and "Assassin's Creed" franchises as well as new releases, driving bookings up and compensating for the long-delayed "Skull & Bones" game.

"Skull & Bones", released in February, received poor review scores, among the lowest for any Ubisoft game, and was not a big seller, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told Reuters.

Skull & Bones got off to a "slightly slower start than expected", Ubisoft's Duguet said on the call, but it still had the second-best daily playtime for a Ubisoft game, he added.

The firm hopes to boost the game's audience and keep players engaged for longer in the first half of the new financial year.

Payments under an acquisition deal concerning Activision Blizzard's streaming rights began in the first three months of the year and have already exceeded Ubisoft's initial investment of 50 million-100 million euros, Duguet said.

($1 = 0.9210 euros)

(Reporting by Gaëlle Sheehan; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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