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Business

Ubisoft’s CEO says he’s still open to other partners after the Tencent deal




Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot speaks on stage during the Ubisoft E3 conference at the Orpheum theater in Los Angeles, California June 15, 2015. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

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  • “We can do whatever we want,” says the founding CEO
  • Ubisoft will make three mobile games with Netflix
  • The Tencent deal comes after the M&A wave in the gaming industry

PARIS, Sept. 10 (Reuters) – (This Sept. 10 story corrects annual three-pillar video game revenue target to 2 billion euros, para 15)

Ubisoft ( UBIP.PA ), France’s biggest video game maker, remains open to other partners following a deal in which China’s Tencent ( 0700.HK ) will increase its stake in the company, co-founder and CEO Yves Guillemot said on Thursday.

Guillemot’s comments, made at a closed press event whose content the company asked not to be made public before an online showcase event on Saturday, came on the heels of a tough day for Ubisoft’s shares, which fell 17% after the group announced that Tencent would become the largest the individual shareholder with a total share of 11%. read more

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The deal values ​​the “Assassin’s Creed” producer at around $10 billion.

“We remain completely independent and we can deal with any external company if we want,” said Guillemot, who with his four brothers founded Ubisoft in 1986. “It was a big negotiation with Tencent,” he added. “We can do whatever we want.”

Traders and analysts have said the Tencent deal, which sees the world’s biggest games company by revenue enter into a shareholder pact with the lomvies, removed the speculative appeal of Ubisoft shares.

The group has long been seen as a takeover target as the Lomvies have a minority share in the group. Still, the Guillemot brothers managed to fend off a raid by French tycoon Vincent Bollore via his media group Vivendi ( VIV.PA ).

The smaller mobile video game maker Gameloft, formerly headed by Yves Guillemot’s brother Michel, was swallowed up by Vivendi six years ago.

The secretive siblings, sons of agricultural traders from a small town in Brittany, western France, have vowed to protect their independence, a goal Yves Guillemot, 62, claimed on Thursday. “Our first intention is to own our destiny,” he said.

MEANINGFUL PROGRESS

That outlook was recently tested by a combination of weak financial results and allegations of sexual harassment, prompting a revamp of the company’s governance and promises to change a corporate culture described as sexist by some former employees.

“Yes, we stumbled, and we acknowledge that,” Guillemot said. “We learned a lot along the way and have made significant progress with concrete action plans collectively led by our leaders.”

Ubisoft burned through around 200 million euros in operational cash during the 2020/2021 financial year, after generating 169 million in operational cash flow the year before.

The company’s financial problems came on top of several delays in the release of new video games and increased pressure on management, amid a boom and M&A wave in the video game industry.

These were particularly marked by Microsoft’s plan to buy “Call of Duty” maker Activision Blizzard for $69 billion.

As part of its plan to return to growth, Ubisoft aims to distribute its three “pillar” games — “Assassin’s Creed,” “Far Cry” and “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six” — across all digital platforms, Guillemot said.

The group aims for these three brands to reach a total of 2 billion euros in annual turnover within five years, Guillemot said.

Guillemot said “Assassin’s Creed” will release its next installment “Mirage” in 2023. Ubisoft is also working with streaming platform Netflix ( NFLX.O ) to develop three original mobile games, including one based on Assassin’s Creed.

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Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by David Holmes

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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