Ubisoft, the French publishing giant behind franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, continues to take steps to protect itself from a hostile takeover by Vivendi. Today, Ubisoft announced that it has reached a deal with an “investment services provider” that will allow it buy back up to 4 million shares by December 29, 2017.
This means no one–Vivendi included–would be able to buy them. It also seems to mean that Vivendi’s percentage of owned shares would increase, given there will be fewer outstanding shares if Ubisoft snaps them up. Ubisoft shares are currently trading for around €60 each, so the total buyback price, assuming that figure, would be around €240 million.
This move comes after the latest Combined General Meeting for Ubisoft shareholders on September 22. 82.67 percent of shareholders weighed in, up from 76.54 percent last year, and according to Ubisoft, “shareholders expressed their overwhelming support for Ubisoft’s management and strategy by approving all ordinary resolutions on the agenda.”
This included the renewal of several board of director positions and the appointment of two new independent directions, Corrine Fernandez-Handelsman and Virgine Haas. This is important because the board of directors now has a majority of independent directors at 6 of 11.
The shareholder meeting wasn’t all great news for Ubisoft, however. “Extraordinary Resolution 31,” which would have allowed Ubisoft to give free shares to employees (for share-based bonuses and compensation), was denied. Ubisoft blamed Vivendi for this; as it did in 2016, Vivendi abstained from this vote, meaning it did not pass. Ubisoft said it’s important to have share-based compensation schemes because it helps attract and retain industry talent. Though this measure failed, Ubisoft said it is exploring “alternative solutions” for developer compensation.
“We are delighted with the massive support of shareholders, which strengthens our determination and ability to defend the interests of all shareholders, and to pursue our strategy of growth and value creation,” Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said. “Ubisoft consolidates its position in the industry among the world’s leading video game and entertainment companies.”
Vivendi has steadily increased its control of shares in Ubisoft since 2015; its ownership is now up to over 27% of its shares (and 24.5% of voting rights). At 30%, French law would mandate that it pursue a controlling stake in the company. Ubisoft and the Guillemot family have repeatedly spoken out against Vivendi’s moves, saying it would hamper the publisher’s ability to innovate and be agile, among other things.
Vivendi said in early 2016 that it had “no plans” for a Ubisoft takeover, but its actions have suggested otherwise. In April, Reuters reported that Vivendi would pursue a takeover attempt this year. Last year, Vivendi took over French developer Gameloft, which was also founded and led by the Guillemots.
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