Activision shares to get a boost from Overwatch, Diablo sequels, Goldman says

Activision Blizzard's upcoming franchise title launches will be big blockbuster sellers, according to one top Wall Street firm.

Goldman Sachs raised its rating for Activision Blizzard shares to buy from neutral, predicting the company will report profits above expectations in 2019 and 2020.

"We believe the recent sell-off in Video Game stocks has largely been due to technical factors relating to positioning around tax reform, and does not reflect any change in fundamentals for the group. We therefore see attractive entry points across our coverage, particularly for ATVI," analyst Christopher Merwin wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. "We are raising our 2019 and 2020 estimates on account of a robust multi year pipeline of games — Diablo, Overwatch 2, and a Blizzard mobile title — which we don't think Street estimates are fully taking into account."

Activision Blizzard shares are up 75 percent year to date through Monday compared with the S&P 500's 19 percent return. The stock is 6 percent off its Nov. 3 52-week high of $67.03.

The analyst increased his 12-month price target for Activision Blizzard shares to $73 from $67, representing 16 upside to Monday's close.

Merwin predicts the company's next "Diablo" game will be released in 2019 and sell 15 million units. He also forecasts "Overwatch 2" will launch in 2020 and sell 20 million units in its first year. The analyst noted how the previous "Diablo" and "Overwatch" titles sold 30 million units in three years and more than 16 million units in its first year respectively, according to his estimates.

"When adding in the potential for non-recurring titles — Diablo, Overwatch 2, and Blizzard mobile — we believe Street estimates … seem rather conservative, particularly in 2019 and 2020," he wrote.

As a result, Merwin estimates Activision Blizzard will generate earnings per share of $3.04 in 2019 versus the Wall Street consensus of $2.90. He also predicts the company will report earnings per share of $3.40 in 2020 versus the $3.19 average estimate.

Activision Blizzard shares are up 1 percent Tuesday after the report.

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