Vivendi sells off Ubisoft holdings, Tencent buys in

When French media conglomerate Vivendi turned its eyes toward Ubisoft a couple of years ago, I thought for sure that Ubisoft was hosed. Ubi bobbed and weaved admirably, but Vivendi brings almost irresistible financial muscle to the fray. Even when it appeared to back off, it remained poised to strike. But today the they announced a surprise deal that will see Vivendi drop its Ubisoft holdings entirely, and guarantee that it won't acquire any new shares in the company for five years. 

Vivendi will sell 30,489,300 shares of Ubisoft for €66 ($81) per share, netting it roughly $2 billion ($2.45 billion). That's a fair price for Vivendi—Ubisoft's share price pushed $72 earlier this month, but dipped to $62.64 in February. But Ubisoft has to be seen as the big winner here, as it managed to not only avoid the Vivendi takeover it's been struggling against, but actually eliminated the threat entirely. More than nine million of those Vivendi shares will be bought back by Ubisoft. 

"The evolution in our shareholding is great news for Ubisoft. It was made possible thanks to the outstanding execution of our strategy and the decisive support of Ubisoft talents, players and shareholders. I would like to warmly thank them all," Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said. 

"Today, Ubisoft is fully reaping the benefits of our long-term strategy and the successful transformation towards a more recurring and profitable business. Ubisoft is perfectly positioned to capture the numerous video game growth drivers in the coming years. We are focused more than ever on delivering on our strategic plan." 

The Vivendi exit also sees new investment into Ubisoft by Chinese gaming giant Tencent and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. Tencent will acquire 5.6 million shares in the company, while OTPP will take 3.8 million, all of them also at €66 per share. Importantly, the deal will not grant Tencent a place on Ubisoft's board of directors, and it agreed that it will not transfer its shares or seek to increase its stake in the company, thereby ensuring that Ubisoft doesn't end up trading one undesired suitor for another.  

It will help open the door to the Chinese market, however. "Tencent manages the largest online games community in China and one of the largest, most active social networks in the world, so this deal should help us dramatically increase our games’ exposure and engagement in China,” Guillemot said. "We are fortunate to have a fantastic partner in Tencent, and look forward to continuing to work with them to deliver great gaming and entertainment experiences for Chinese players."