Vivendi Closes In on Gameloft Gaining Support for Hostile Bidby
Amber Capital to tender 13% stake as offer is raised
Founding Guillemot family controls Gameloft, Ubisoft
Vivendi Chairman Vincent Bollore, knocking at the door of Gameloft SE and Ubisoft Entertainment’s founding Guillemot family for months, is about to break it down.
Bollore on Friday struck a major blow in his hostile bid to take over Gameloft, the smaller of the French family’s two video game companies, winning support from major shareholder Amber Capital after raising his offer by 11 percent.
Amber Capital’s assent means time is running short for the Guillemot family, which founded both Gameloft and larger gamemaker Ubisoft Entertainment. Analysts at Exane BNP Paribas said the prospect of a counter offer is unlikely and advised clients to tender their shares to Vivendi and to switch to Ubisoft, where the next battle between Bollore and the Guillemots will probably take place.
“We believe that Vivendi’s next focus will be Ubisoft,” the analysts led by Jean-Christophe Liaubet said. Given Bollore’s track record, “investors are unlikely to let Vivendi gain influence over or control of Ubisoft without paying a premium,” they said.
Vivendi upped its price on Thursday, seeking to win over shareholders like Amber, which will tender 13 percent of Gameloft, before the offer closes on May 27. With Vivendi’s 29.4 percent holding, Bollore now has support of about 42.4 percent of Gameloft’s capital.
The Guillemots, by comparison, hold a combined 21 percent, according to a March 2 filing. Gameloft shares rose 11 percent to 7.98 euros at 1:48 p.m. in Paris.
A Vivendi spokesman declined to comment on Amber’s decision. A Gameloft representative couldn’t immediately be reached to comment. Gameloft will hold a board meeting in coming days to evaluate the Vivendi offer, said a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing internal company deliberations.
Gameloft in February rejected a takeover offer from Vivendi, setting the stage for a protracted battle. Bollore, a billionaire and activist investor, began buying stock in Gameloft and Ubisoft without bothering to open discussions with Yves Guillemot and his brothers, who run both companies. A bid to stop the offer in courts failed for the family this month, leaving the Guillemots with a dwindling set of options to protect their companies from takeover.
Analysts at Bryan Garnier have speculated that Gameloft, the maker of mobile games such as “Order & Chaos” and “Dungeon Hunter,” may be a way for Vivendi to force talks with the Guillemots and eventually negotiate a friendly takeover of Ubisoft, the creator of “Assassin’s Creed.”
Ubisoft rose 2 percent to 30.29 euros in Paris. Vivendi climbed 0.4 percent, to 17.08 euros.
Gameloft and Ubisoft compete with market giants Activision Blizzard Inc. and Electronics Arts Inc. Vivendi, which used to control Activision Blizzard, sold its stake over the past two years. With assets including the French pay-TV station Canal Plus, Vivendi has also acquired 25 percent of phone carrier Telecom Italia SpA as it seeks more influence in both content creation and distribution.