Ubisoft say they’d consider being bought if someone offered
Right now, every big games company’s shareholders have two questions: 1) can we get rich off NFTs? 2) can we get rich being bought by a larger company? Well, Ubisoft have made their stupid-ass stance on NFTs quite clear, so let’s move on to question two. In a recent financial conference call, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said they think they’re good to stand independent, but if someone had a juicy offer, well, they might think about it. But that’s a noncommittal business answer, really, just business as usual.
The question of acquisition came up yesterday in a conference call for investors and analysts, which accompanied the release of Ubisoft’s latest quaterly financial results (overheard by Ian Games Network). Someone asked, so they answered.
“We have always taken our decisions in the interest of our stakeholders, which are our employees, players, and shareholders,” Yves Guillemot said. “So Ubisoft can remain independent. We have the talent, the industrial and the financial scale, and a large portfolio of powerful IPs [. . .] sought after by the biggest global players in entertainment and tech.” Case for independence: made. Unless someone has a better offer.
“Having said that,” he continued, “if there were an offer to buy us, the board of directors would of course review it in the interest of all stakeholders.”
Honestly, I wouldn’t read much into it. This is Guillemot telling investors, hey we think we’re going to make money for you as is, though if the opportunity arose we would consider whether that would make more money for you. Then investors go away happy at the mention of money. Still, I suppose you might consider it a slightly softer stance than their prior independent spirit.
Ubisoft have already fended off an acquisition attempt from Vivendi, the former owners of Activision Blizzard. Vivendi spent several years buying up Ubisoft shares in a hostile takeover attempt, which Ubisoft resisted by buying shares back themselves. Vivendi managed to get 27%, perilously close to the 30% threshold where they’d get to make a takeover bid, but eventually backed down and by 2019 had sold off every share they held. There would be a certain weird poetry in Ubisoft being bought by, say, the new owners of Activision Blizzard.
For reference, Activision Blizzard’s valuation by market cap was $51 billion right before Microsoft announced their plan to buy Actiblizz for $69 billion. On that scale, Ubisoft look tiny with a market cap of $6-7-ish billion. Microsoft could accidentally buy Ubisoft by misclicking on Amazon and not even realise until Yves Guillemot was dumped on their doorstep in a cardboard box.
A group of Ubisoft employees are still campaigning for the company to do more in the wake of summer 2020’s many, many allegations and revelations of widespread harassment and discrimination. Over 1000 current and former Ubisoft employees signed an open letter demanding reform. Over 200 days later, the group known as A Better Ubisoft still say “None of our demands have been met and management refuse to engage.” Not that workplace problems deter acquisitions.