Ubisoft asks Canada to help head off hostile takeover by Vivendi

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Assassin's Creed publisher Ubisoft is seeking financial backing from the governments of Canada and Quebec, as well as increased investment from Canadian shareholders, as it moves to prevent a hostile takeover effort by Vivendi.

Vivendi already holds a 15 percent stake in Ubisoft, according to a report in The Globe and Mail, and it recently made a $750 million takeover bid for Gameloft, a mobile-focused gaming company launched in 2000 by Ubisoft co-founder Michel Guillemot. Vivendi is now seeking to increase that stake, while Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot wants to “increase the number of Canadian shareholders in Ubisoft to have better control over the capital.”

Canadian investment is the focus because Ubisoft has major studios in Montreal and Toronto, and smaller operations in Quebec City and Halifax, which collectively employ more than 3000 people. It's unlikely that VIvendi would shut them down outright, but Guillemot said Ubisoft's independence gives it "decision-making and operational agility," as well as the ability to make deals with any companies it wants—both of which it would lose if it fell under Vivendi's control. Coincidentally or not (and I'm thinking not), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently toured the Ubisoft Montreal offices and took a meeting with Guillemot.

What's interesting about all this is that Vivendi not all that long ago divested itself of Activision Blizzard, in which it had held a 61 percent stake. Vivendi may have felt forced to do so at the time, as its own share price was struggling, but the bottom line is that if this deal goes through, it will have effectively traded the company that makes World of Warcraft and Call of Duty for the one that makes Assassin's Creed and Far Cry. I'm no business analyst (and hey, I like Far Cry), but I don't think that's a move I'd want on my high-finance highlights reel.


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