Led by chairman Vincent Bolloré, Vivendi had acquired a 27.27% stake in the company behind “Assassin’s Creed” (pictured) for €794 million ($972 million) over the last three years but failed to gain seats on Ubisoft’s board of directors as it faced fierce opposition from Yves Guillemot, who founded Ubisoft with his four brothers.
Vivendi bought Ubisoft’s sister company, Gameloft, through a hostile takeover, and the Guillemot brothers feared Vivendi would soon increase its stake to Ubisoft to reach the 30% that would have obligated Vivendi to make a buyout offer for the video game group.
While Vivendi is departing, two new long-term investors have come on board: Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Chinese Internet giant Tencent, which have committed to acquiring a 3.4% stake (for 3.7 million shares) and a 5% stake (for 5.6 million shares), respectively. The deals value Ubisoft at €66 ($80) per share.
Ubisoft and Tencent have also signed a strategic partnership to fast-track the reach of Ubisoft franchises in China in the coming years.
“The evolution of our shareholders is excellent news for Ubisoft. The arrival of [Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Tencent] highlights the trust they have in our creative potential and Ubisoft buying back shares will have a positive impact on all of the shareholders,” said Yves Guillemot.
He also noted that the partnership with Tencent would enable Ubisoft to tap into the Chinese market, which has “considerable potential.”
As part of the deal with Ubisoft, Vivendi won’t be permitted to make a buyout offer for Ubisoft over the next five years. But Jean-Baptiste Sergeant, senior analyst at MainFirst, said the outcome of the sale was fairly positive for Vivendi.
“The sale of shares is allowing Vivendi to make a significant profit of €1.2 billion which underscores the trading skills of Vincent Bolloré, especially since the rise of Ubisoft’s market capitalization has increased since 2015 partly due to the speculation linked to Vivendi’s potential OPA,” Sergeant said.
He added, however, that Vivendi’s sale of Ubisoft shares cast doubt on the French giant’s ambition to expand its activities in the field of video games.