Vivendi on Track to Poach French Mobile Game Company Gameloft, Ubisoft’s Sister Banner

PARIS — Vivendi is on track to win its hostile bid to take over the French mobile game company Gameloft, the sister-banner of “Assassin’s Creed” maker Ubisoft.

Vivendi has indeed garnered the support of the majority of Gameloft’s shareholders, namely Amber Capital and CIC, after making a bid at 8 Euros per share on Friday. It had previously made an unsolicited offer at 6 Euros per share which was unanimously rejected by Gameloft’s board on Feb. 29, and later upped its offer to 7.20 Euros per share, valuing Gameloft at around 610 million Euros.

The French regulatory authorities will unveil the official outcome of the bid by Friday — analysts and insiders believe Vivendi now owns at least 50% of Gameloft, the maker of “Dungeon Hunter,” among other popular mobile games.
With an expected 50% of Gameloft’s voting rights, Vivendi would have the option of plugging out the founding fathers of the company, Yves Guillemot and his five brothers, who have been fiercely opposed to the takeover, judging the bid insufficient, unsolicited and lacking industrial rational. The Guillemot clan, which owns 18.99% of Gameloft with 27.26% of its voting rights, battled, in vain, to find other bidders in Canada and in the U.K. to counter Vivendi’s takeover.

While analysts had previously hinted that Vivendi’s interest in Gameloft was part of a broader strategy to acquire the Guillemot’s crown jewel, Ubisoft — the video game company behind franchises such as “Splinter Cell” — Vivendi’s boss Vincent Bolloré declared in late March that he didn’t intend on bidding for Ubisoft. That declaration means that Vivendi would not be permitted to make a bid for Ubisoft for six months; so not until about mid-September.

Thomas Alzuyeta, financial analyst at Gilbert Dupont, said Vivendi’s aim with Ubisoft was primarily to gain access to its board. “Ubisoft will have its annual shareholders’ meeting in September and I predict Vivendi will not win the vote to be represented in this board. Unless he makes a bid to take over Ubisoft, Vivendi will face great resistance from other shareholders to be granted a seat on its board; people are wary of Bolloré’s drastic methods that include wiping out top management as he did with Telecom Italia and Canal Plus,” said Alzuyeta.

In terms of strategy, Gameloft also seems a more viable investment than Ubisoft which would cost Vivendi about 4 billion Euros — the bulk of its war chest — to acquire.

Meanwhile, Vivendi could spur some synergies with Gameloft due to its expertise in the advertising field, notably via Havas, according to analysts. “Vivendi and Havas know very well the international advertisers, and that would be a huge asset for Gameloft since its mobile games hold a tremendous potential in terms of advertising,” pointed out Alzuyeta. Gameloft indeed reaches as many as 147 million people per month – or 19 million people per day — but it only generates 5 million Euros from advertising out of 252 million Euros in annual revenue.

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