Rumour: Vivendi making another play to acquire Ubisoft

Vivendi vs the Guillemots, yesterday.

Vivendi, former parent company of Activision and Blizzard, have been trying to snaffle up fellow French firm Ubisoft for several years now, against the latter’s own wishes. That’s what they call a hostile takeover, kids. And now they’ve signalled that they’re making a move to acquire the whole kit and kaboodle this year.

Ubi having been fighting the takeover as best they can – which, broadly, involves trying to stop further shares from being sold to Vivendi – but the great devourer looks set to step this up in 2017.

This is because Vivendi’s own share price has fallen 3% over the past three years and, according to Reuters, they reckon that getting back into videogames is the solution.

“Everything will take place this year,” Reuters quotes an unnamed source as saying in regard to Vivendi’s new effort to acquire both Ubi and an advertising firm named Havas. “The logical thing would be to buy Ubisoft,” adds the source, though they also claim that the acquisition would not come at any cost – so further resistance from Ubisoft bigwig Yves Guillemot may yet save the day.

Vivendi already own around 25% of Ubisoft shares these days, but, as we already knew, once they reach 30% Ubi will be legally obliged to invite Vivendi to make them an offer whether they want to or not.

In other words, this might be the year that we start seeing Vivendi-Ubisoft logos on our Clancy’em-ups. Honestly, I don’t know who one is supposed to root for in a war of billionaire corporations, though that it’s happening against Ubi’s will doesn’t seem altogether pleasant.

It’s easy to understand why Ubi is so attractive a proposition though – its Rainbow Sixes and Divisions and Ghost Recons seem to be incredible money-spinners now they’ve moved to a games-as-service approach.

27 Comments

  1. unacom says:

    There´s always a bigger fish.
    I´m tempted to bemoan the fact that I´ll need to read up on stock-exchange news in order to know about the prospect of good computer games being released in the next relevant fiscal period.

  2. jeremyalexander says:

    This is and has been such a weird story. If they wanted to stay in the industry, owning Blizzard and Activision seems like a pretty good bet, so why get rid of them in the first place, and why aggressively try to take control of a company that doesn’t want it? It’s just going to instigate a massive talent drain the minute it happens because nobody there wants to work for Vivendi.

    • Alec Meer says:

      It’s all about the massive one-off boost to profits that selling a subsidiary that’s making crazy wealth gains them. Huge dollop of cash in the bank as opposed to potential cash over time (and which can then be spent on acquiring more firms to build up then sell), which in turn is likely to make the seller’s own share price spike.

      • 7vincent7black7 says:

        I’ll be honest. I don’t really care about AC game releases “currently” because Ubisoft is making slow progress with what got me hooked in the first place. The underlying plot behind the Animus. After they killed Desmond Miles, a lot of gamers got pissed at them for killing off a character that was beginning to finally grow on us. We were becoming accustomed to him, yet in the next game, they showed promise of introducing a character who might inadvertently start working for the Assassins.

        Whether or not this actually came/comes to pass, it follows them making it appear this omnipotent, primordial being would be striking against the human society with a vengeance, and there has been all but a supreme lack of goings-on in the real world for the last few iterations. To that end, I am waiting for Ubisoft to build their geese in a row and finally release the game that I am waiting for. The one that introduces a major, modern conflict between the Assassins and Templars in a futuristic world, and/or that introduces “The Ones Who Came Before” making a reappearance in the future, attempting to enslave mankind. All the while the TOWCBs would either be revered and served by the Templars, believing they have the right to rule over mankind and protect them from themselves, or would destroy the Templars for assuming they should have the right to hold any dominance at all, and the Assassins would fight against them all.

        To that extent, Vivendi acquiring Ubi might mark the end of the AC franchise. While I have become moderately bored with their repetitive take on historic settings, I would still lament the end of what their franchise could have been. A lot of that feel is missing now, since the earliest games, and I sincerely hope they get it back as they eclipse in the present tense setting of the AC plot, at some point.

    • causticnl says:

      Blizzard bought themself out, against Vivendi’s wishes.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      Well, ideally you want to sell high and buy low.

  3. soijohn says:

    @jeremyalexander
    because Vivendi’s ceo, french businessman Vincent Bolloré, is a pure douchebag known to have bought and ruined one of the best French TV network, among other things.
    They don’t care what they buy, as long as it serves their interests. And since they don’t care about it, they kill it.

    • baud001 says:

      I worked there for nearly a year. A lot of people disliked him, especially concerning the decisions of canceling various programs. Also one of the channel went one strike for weeks because of a reorganization plan while I was there.

  4. ColonelFlanders says:

    Wait, how can a company buy another company that the other company don’t want to sell?

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      Mungrul says:

      That’s how shares work. While a significant amount of shares in Ubi are held by people who don’t want to sell and feel they are doing just fine thankyouverymuch, other, lesser shareholders will gladly take the money being waved under their noses by Vivendi, which will end up pushing Vivendi over the necessary 30% stake.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    I’ve not bought an Ubisoft game in ages now (got tired of them recycling the same structure over and over again), but I’m still inclined to side with them in this, if only because they have expressed that they don’t want a takeover.

    • unacom says:

      In which case they could have stayed out of the stock-market in the first place.

    • playzintraffic says:

      I stopped buying Ubi games after I witnessed with horror what they did to the Heroes of Might and Magic franchise. That game defined my adolescence, and they bent it over a barrel and violently assaulted it like that guy in Deliverance. So while I have no great love for Vivendi, anything that bends Ubi over a barrel of their own makes me smile.

      • asmodemus says:

        Agreed. Ubi seems to have done okay for the Rainbow Six people of the world. Those of us who are Might and Magic folks from the New World days however hate them to the ends of the earth. I can’t imagine anything would please me more than to see them torn apart. They have cheapened the franchise, split it into a million pieces. They put no resources into it and gouge a devout fanbase. There’s almost no way any company could be worse.

        Vivendi did a more or less passable job at leaving Blizzard alone to get along with making games and money (better than the Activision deal seems to have gone IMO.) I’m willing to see how they do with Ubi. In many ways I’m hoping for a bloodbath and for individual franchises like M&M to be sold off piecemeal to people who actually care enough to use them properly.

  6. TrynePlague says:

    Here in France, we all know what kind of a Demon Vivendi is.
    But to be honest, I couldn’t care less of what happens to UbiSoft and their AC and Tom Clancy bullshit.

  7. BaronKreight says:

    I confess I don’t have much love for Ubisoft even though I’ve played their games and enjoyed them. Let me put it the other way – I’m not interested in corporate squabbles. I’d be more worried about regular company employees and their future jobs in this matter. Management and CEOs have their asses covered anyway.

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      teije says:

      Exactly. Upper management will cash out fine, but Ubi is a big employer with many talented employees. Those are the ones that should be worried, because takeovers are often heavily leveraged, and major cost-cutting (code for firing good people) usually follows.

    • playzintraffic says:

      The last Ubi game I really enjoyed was GR:AW (1). It was pretty good, the mechanics really gave you this feeling of being an actual soldier and having some very significant limitations. And the plot wasn’t half terrible, even if it was difficult to compile what was going on.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Barf. Remember kids, don’t become a publicly traded company if you want to be in control of your creative decisions.

    • Premium User Badge

      Mungrul says:

      So much this.

      Then again, except for under very rare circumstances, unfortunately most employees don’t have a say in the decisions private company owners make. And if a private company owner is getting old and looking to retire, often the best option for them personally is to sell the company.

      People have been taught to think in the short term and for themselves first over the past 40 years.

    • Dewal says:

      Starting a business without investor is often very hard and you have to sell, in advance, parts of your company. And then, when you’re successful and you find out the same company is buying all the shares you had in the wind, it may be too late to protect yourself.
      It’s not about cupidity or selfishness.
      (And, Mungrul. If one day you start a bakery, become successful and employ a bakery boy. And few years down the line you want to do something else… should you be entitled to keep the bakery until the day you die because of this poor bakery boy that’s going to lose his job ? When you create a company, it’s normal that you can do whatever you want with it.)

      On the story, even though Ubisoft is far from the perfect studio, they had some very good games and I’d find it a bit sad to have them eaten by Vivendi. It could mean the end of their small experiences like Child of Light, Grow Home, Rayman…

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        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        No, you don’t sell the bakery because nobody wants to buy bakeries anymore.

        Sincerely, a bakery boy.

      • Premium User Badge

        Mungrul says:

        Not at all, but I wouldn’t gut the business just to line my own pockets. Personally, I’d have been hoping said bakery boy could take over the business. I’d prefer it went to someone with an interest in baking rather than someone who wants to treat it as an asset in order to bolster their already bulging coffers.

  9. Seafoam says:

    Those goddamn nooses again

  10. CMaxo says:

    Ironically, if Vivendi acquire Ubisoft in France (as its headquarter is located in Montreuil-sous-Bois), it will find itself in a pickle considering how Canadian laws works with foreign acquisition of international business since Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Quebec (the studios which worked on Assassin Creed, Hitman, Rayman, Deux Ex, etc.) wouldn’t exactly be acquired directly.

    Those 2 (and some others) aren’t “divisions” since they were separated legally from the headquarter located in France. This was done when Ubisoft couldn’t apply for any financial funding from the federal (Canada) and provincial (Quebec) government. (Every year, they get millions in financial backing from divers subventions in entertainment fields. I remember they got like 20,000,000 CAD in 2012 when Quebec invested in the video game industry to push it further in the province.)

    Those funds were only available for “local” companies and that’s when Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Quebec were legally separated from the headquarter. It’s a process similar to a Franchise, but where the IPs are owned by the headquarters.)

    So, if Vivendi does acquire Ubisoft, they won’t acquire “anything” from Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Quebec except the IPs worked there. Not.a.single.employee… or even the software or buildings.

    This is also what makes me believe Vivendi only want Ubisoft for its IPs and its relevant “outgoing money” and not really for investing itself and taking over its activities. A bit like how Walt Disney agreed to bought Marvel and yet left it “alone” to its own “stuff” (which worked really greatly if you know what I mean).