Nexon CFO Says Transformative Deals Considered in Growth Push

Nexon Co. (3659), the Japanese maker of online games including “MapleStory” and “Combat Arms,” is considering “transformative” deals as it seeks expansion in Asia and the West.

“Our deal pipeline is as robust as it’s ever been both in Asia and in the West,” Chief Financial Officer Owen Mahoney said in an interview today. Mahoney is replacing Choi Seung Woo as chief executive officer starting March 25, the Tokyo-based company said yesterday.

Nexon is looking for acquisitions or alliances as a way to boost game programming talent and expand its user base. The games maker is betting on deals to stoke growth after buying stakes in four companies last year and acquiring a fifth, saying in September it would invest in Shiver Entertainment founded by former Zynga Inc. Chief Operating Officer John Schappert.

“There are a couple I have my eye on in a very big way and those would be transformative,” said Mahoney following an interview with Bloomberg TV in Tokyo. He didn’t name any targets.

Mahoney, 47, who joined Nexon in 2010 from Electronic Arts Inc., the second-largest U.S. games maker, is adding his name to a short list of non-Japanese running companies in the country. Others include Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn and Christophe Weber, who was picked as the planned successor to lead the Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.

Nexon CEO Choi is retiring after 15 years at the company, it said yesterday.

Nexon net income is expected to jump 38 percent this year to 41.5 billion yen, the average of 10 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Thingsoft Deal

Nexon rose 0.1 percent to 838 yen today at 12:41 p.m. in Tokyo trading, compared with a 2.1 percent drop in the broader Topix index. The game maker is down 14 percent this year, while the Topix has slumped 9.8 percent.

In September, the company agreed to buy Thingsoft, an online game development studio based in Seoul, South Korea, that helped develop the FIFA Online 1 title. In July, Nexon announced strategic investments in Redwood City, California-based Rumble Entertainment Inc. and Baltimore, Maryland-based SecretNewCo.

The company yesterday reported a net loss of 4.4 billion yen ($43.1 million) for the fourth quarter, compared with 552 million yen in net income a year ago. Revenue in the three months ended December rose 12 percent to 34.5 billion yen, Nexon reported yesterday. Operating income fell 96 percent to 327 million yen, mostly because of an impairment loss at a unit.

To contact the reporter on this story: Takashi Amano in Tokyo at tamano6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net

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