Assassin's Creed game publisher Ubisoft draws buyout interest

Still image of an eagle soaring over the Great Pyramids of Giza in Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Origins. PHOTO: UBISOFT

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Ubisoft Entertainment SA, the video game publisher behind the Assassin's Creed franchise, is attracting preliminary takeover interest from buyout funds, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Several private equity firms including Blackstone and KKR & Co have been studying the French business, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Ubisoft has not entered into any serious negotiations with potential acquirers, and it is unclear whether its major shareholder is willing to pursue a deal, the people said.

The family of Ubisoft chairman Yves Guillemot is the company's biggest investor with a 15 per cent stake, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Shares of Ubisoft have fallen 41 per cent in Paris trading over the past year, giving it a market value of about 4.8 billion euros (S$7 billion).

Deliberations are at an early stage, and there is no certainty any of the suitors will proceed with offers, the people said. Representatives for Blackstone and KKR declined to comment.

Ubisoft said in an e-mailed statement it has built a strong portfolio and is ideally positioned to capitalise on emerging opportunities amid rapid growth in the industry. The company declined to comment on any takeover interest.

Ubisoft was founded in 1986 by five brothers from the Guillemot family. The company's shares have been battered over the past year amid concerns over delayed launches and lower productivity levels compared to peers.

French media giant Vivendi SE agreed in 2018 to sell its stake in Ubisoft after its typical strategy of seeking creeping control failed to pan out. The exit was a victory for Ubisoft's leader Mr Guillemot, who sought to ward off a takeover attempt by Vivendi's billionaire backer Vincent Bollore.

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