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Vivendi’s Fight For Gameloft Goes Hostile

February 19, 2016, 10:00 PM UTC
Courtesy: Gameloft

Vivendi’s quest to return to the video game sector, which was pretty ugly to begin with, is getting even more unsightly.

The French media conglomerate has launched a hostile takeover bid for mobile game company Gameloft (GLOFF), making a blanket offer of €6 ($6.67) per all outstanding shares. The move comes after Vivendi (VIVEF) once again increased its ownership stake in the company, this time to 30%.

According to French law, once a buyer owns more than 30% of a company’s shares, they must make an attempt to purchase a controlling stake for a reasonable price. Investors can reject that, of course, but the €6 offer is a 50.4% premium over the stock’s value on Oct. 14, 2015 – when Vivendi first bought shares.

Gameloft, which says it learned of the offer when its trading of its shares were halted, classified the bid as hostile and issued a brief statement.

“A meeting of the Board of Directors has been convened for next week,” it wrote. “The company will publish a statement after the meeting of the Board. Until then no further comments will be made regarding this unsolicited bid.”

Beyond the fate of Gameloft itself, the bid raises questions about what Vivendi’s intentions are regarding Ubisoft. Last October, the company surprised both companies by purchasing ownership stakes of more than 6% in each company. Two weeks later, it increased its position in Ubisoft to 10.39% and in Gameloft to 10.2%.

At present, Vivendi owns a nearly 15% stake in Ubisoft – significantly more than CEO Yves Guillemot and his family, whose ownership stake is roughly 9%, according to the Financial Times.

Both Gameloft and Ubisoft were founded by the Guillemot brothers. And both companies at the time said they, frankly, would rather be left alone. Ubisoft publicly declared that Vivendi’s involvement was unsolicited and, as described it in an internal email, “unwelcome“.

Since Vivendi has bought into the company, Ubisoft has attempted to better position itself to fend off a takeover attempt. During an investors meeting this week, Ubisoft said it planned to triple its operating income over the next three years – an unusual projection for a company that tends to only publicly forecast for the coming 12 months.

Share prices were up 22% this week but are still below their three-month highs.

Vivendi sold its 85% stake in Activision-Blizzard in July 2013 for over $8 billion, saying at the time it wanted to focus on the TV and movie side of its business.

But the video game world has changed substantially since Vivendi bowed out. Several publishers, including Ubisoft, have partnered to create theme parks or theme park attractions based on their IP. Mobile gaming companies, such as Gameloft, are booming. And there’s increased interest from Hollywood in creating film and television shows spinning off of games. (Ubisoft itself will release an Assassin’s Creed feature film this December.)

As a multimedia company, that seems to be of interest to Vivendi – especially since it eluded them with their last game company holding.

“This proposed acquisition would create value for both companies,” the company said in a statement announcing the Gameloft offer. “Vivendi and Gameloft share many commonalities, including French roots, an international dimension and a similar understanding of cultural diversity to meet the expectations of consumers in each country.”