Over the weekend news surfaced that Vivendi, seemed to be attempting a take over by stock purchase (hostile take over) of Publisher Ubisoft. Now in response 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 that take over. While such take overs are common place for Vivendi, Ubisoft hops to be able to prevent themselves from becoming another acquisition in their portfolio.
Vivendi is already a 15% stake holder in Ubisoft, and they have quite the history of takeovers. Recently they have added Gameloft to their portfolio, and after I suppose that makes sense since Ubisoft co-founder Michel Guillemot also founded Gameloft. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot wants to “increase the number of Canadian shareholders in Ubisoft to have better control over the capital.”
So what does that mean? that little quote there, from the CEO is more than just a common please for help. Its a plea to the people of Canada (where must of Ubisoft is based) to help the studio that currently calls it home. Currently, Ubisoft has two major studios in Canada, one in Montreal and one in Toronto, and smaller operations in Quebec City and Halifax. These offices which collectively employ more than 3000 people might be at risk if the company was taken over. 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.” If Vivendi took over operations Ubisoft might lose those abilities.
Now dont get your pitchforks just yet, Ubisoft is already a publicly held company, it already has to deal with lots of restrictions that make it less agile than say a start up indie studio. It is also worth looking at the way the Vivendi does business. They held for some time a 61% stake in Activision Blizzard, but recently divested them selves of that stake. In case you dont follow the markets Activision Blizzard, Inc. (ATVI) is currently trading down, and has been for most of the the Vivendi tenure. Yet they still exist and havent been shedding jobs left and right. So perhaps this isint doom and gloom for Ubisoft? Either way, even if they were acquired with Vivendi’s track record its unlikely that most stock traders would bite, since they dont have a great record for Activision Blizzard.
The coming weeks will show us who ends up winning. Keep your eyes on that ticker, if it goes up and hte buy volume goes up, it could be happening. Oh and dont forget to show your support for all game developers by buying their games, so the industry can avoid outside influence as much as possible.