Activision Grows Up

This is a coming-of-age drama about a rising adolescent grappling with the stark realities of adulthood. Naturally, I'm talking about gaming giant Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI  ) , which just made a few announcements worthy of a John Hughes film.

First, there were the smashing profits that have to leave the guys at Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS  ) feeling pretty deflated right now. And that's great. But fellow Fool Anders Bylund has that angle pretty well covered already today.

Instead, I'm here to talk about Activision's overcoming of the quarter-life crisis. Highly successful tech companies reach a point where they end up with too much cash on their hands. In Activision's case, that's about $2.7 billion, or close to a quarter of the company's market cap. That's a great "problem" to have, of course, assuming that you deploy the cash well. Many tech companies don't, frankly. If they're not wasting it by chasing growth via marginal projects or splashy acquisitions, they're letting it sit idle in their coffers, earning nominal rates of interest. I'm looking at you, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) .

Mature tech stars such as Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) and more recently Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) , though, have already made the leap into dividend-paying adulthood. And with its surprising announcement of an annual $0.15 dividend, you can now add Activision to that list. That makes for about a 1.4% yield off today's prices.

In another nice touch, Activision went the annual route with its dividend payment, rather than quarterly. Activision's product-launch-centric profits are pretty lumpy, which doesn't align well with a quarterly payout policy. And there's always room to ease into a quarterly payout down the road. Dividends are something you don't want to overcommit on, since a company's shares usually get drubbed any time it backtracks on its payout policy.

Don't mistake this new policy as Activision waving a white flag, though. Far from it. The company is still awash in cash, with gusting tailwinds at its back. In fact, the guys over at Stock Advisor think highly enough of Activision's prospects to rate it one of their Core Stocks. If you're curious to learn more about the team's thesis, you can now try Stock Advisor free for 30 days.

Senior analyst Joe Magyer does not own any of the companies mentioned in this article. You can now follow Joe's snarky musings on Twitter. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Apple, Activision Blizzard, and Electronic Arts are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Motley Fool Options has recommended a synthetic long position on Activision Blizzard. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard and Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy doesn't play games.


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  • Report this Comment On February 11, 2010, at 5:01 PM, mhonarvar wrote:

    Lol, I love how Jim Cramer has repeatedly put down ATVI and advised viewers to buy ERTS instead. Just waiting for him to admit his mistake.

  • Report this Comment On February 11, 2010, at 5:21 PM, topsecret10 wrote:

    I'm surprised the stock didn't go up two or three bucks.... That gives me time to accumulate more shares.... TS

  • Report this Comment On February 11, 2010, at 5:52 PM, Varchild2008 wrote:

    If AAPL is a core stock then it is an APPLE CORE.

    If ATVI is a core stock then it is an.....a.......uhm...hmmmmm....ACTIVE CORE?

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