GameStop Corp. (GME), the world's largest video game and entertainment software retailer, is scheduled to release its fourth-quarter earnings before the markets open Thursday. Despite the severe impact of ongoing economic crisis on the consumer spending, the company is projecting a 17% to 18% earnings growth in its fourth quarter, within the analysts' estimated range, on the strength of an earlier reported 22% rise in revenues and 9.6% growth in comparable store sales.

GameStop, which was founded in 1994, operates as a retailer of video game products and personal computer entertainment software. As of February 2, 2008, the company operated a total of 5,264 stores that are located in regional shopping malls and strip centers in the United States, Australia, Canada, and Europe. The company sells its products through its GameStop and EB Games trade names, Websites, including gamestop.com and ebgames.com, and 'Game Informer' magazine.

The Grapevine, Texas-based gaming company now sees fourth-quarter earnings in a range of $1.33 to $1.34 per share, a 17% to 18% growth from last year. The forecast was revised in mid February to the high-end of the previous range of $1.31 to $1.34 per share. GameStop's initial projection for the fourth-quarter earnings in the range of $1.37 to $1.40 per share, which was later trimmed to a range of $1.29 per share to $1.34 per share, before revising to $1.31 to $1.34 per share.

On average, 15 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect the company to report earnings of $1.34 per share, with estimates ranging between $1.29 and $1.35 per share. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items.

The company in mid-February reported fourth-quarter sales of $3.5 billion, a 22% increase over the prior year quarter, with comparable-store sales increasing 9.6%.

In the same quarter a year ago, the company had recorded net earnings of $189.8 million or $1.14 per share on revenues of $2.87 billion, and comparable store sales growth of 17.4%.

In the month of December, GameStop managed a 22% jump in sales, terming the season as the busiest it has ever experienced. Same-store-sales during the holiday period, November 2, 2008 through January 3, 2009, jumped 10.2%, driven by substantial increases in hardware and software sales.

In its preceding third-quarter, the company had reported a decline in net earnings to $46.67 million or $0.28 per share from $51.96 million or $0.31 per share in the prior year quarter, reflecting the effect of foreign currency fluctuations and merger-related expenses. However, adjusted earnings rose to $63.27 million or $0.38 per share from $52.49 million or $0.32 per share last year. Quarterly sales rose to $1.70 billion from $1.61 billion last year.

Among others in the industry, Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) in late January reported fourth-quarter net income of $225 million or $0.52 per share, compared to $207 million or $0.48 per share for the year-ago quarter. Net sales for the quarter increased 18% year-over-year to $6.70 billion, while the growth was 24% excluding unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates.

Specialty electronics retailer Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY) is due to announce its fourth-quarter financial results on Thursday, March 26. Analysts expect the company to report earnings of $1.40 per share on revenues of $14.82 billion for the quarter.

While announcing the third quarter results back in December, Best Buy had revealed that it planned significant spending reductions to prepare for the difficult economic environment, including reducing capital spending by about 50% next year, with a substantial reduction in new store openings in the U.S., Canada and China.

For the full year 2008, GameStop expects earnings in a range of $2.39 to $2.40 per share, an increase of 33% over the prior year, while full-year sales increased 24% to $8.8 billion, and comparable-store sales rose 12.3%. The Street currently anticipates earnings of $2.40 per share on revenue $8.77 billion for the year.

In the prior year, the company's net earnings were $288.3 million or $1.75 per share, including debt retirement costs, and adjusted earnings of $1.80 per share, on revenues of $7.09 billion.

Dan DeMatteo, Chief Executive Officer of GameStop, earlier commented, The video game business continues to enjoy robust growth, making it the fastest growing of the many consumer goods categories. 2008 marked yet another year of strong new hardware sales, which will again help drive sales of new video games in the years ahead. This trend continued in January as NPD reported US new hardware unit sales grew 29%, led by Nintendo's Wii, DS and Microsoft's Xbox 360.

While revising its fourth-quarter forecast recently, GameStop said that despite the current global recession it expects to outperform the retail sector again in fiscal 2009 building on a strong 2008, in which the company surpassed its original guidance. For the year, the company now expects earnings per share to increase 18% to 22%, total sales growth between 10% and 12%, and comparable store sales growth of 4% to 6%. GameStop also plans to open 400 plus new stores worldwide in 2009.

Previously, the company had said that, looking beyond 2008, it expected earnings per share to grow at least 25% in fiscal 2009.

Regarding its international business, the company in mid February had said that the completion of the Micromania acquisition enabled GameStop to secure a major, growing foothold on the European continent, where sales are forecasted to reach $2 billion in 2009. Moreover, as each of the individual European markets approach scalability, productivity will continue to increase leading to increased operating earnings, the company said.

GME closed Wednesday's regular trading session at $26.84, down $0.21 or 0.78%, on a volume of 6.5 million shares, against a 3-month average volume of 3.9 million shares. In the past 52 weeks, shares have been trading in a broad range of $16.91 - $59.13.

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