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Ubisoft fights hostile takeover bid from Vivendi

Guillemot ropes in Canadian PM, investors to help create "a good defence".

Ubisoft is one of the world's biggest gaming companies, so the idea it could be targeted by a hostile takeover feels like an odd one.

Of course, the answer is a new Beyond Good & Evil.

But that's exactly what's happening right now, as French conglomerate Vivendi gobbles up Ubisoft shares to gain ever more influence over the family-run enterprise.

Vivendi has been after a stake in Ubisoft since last autumn. It bought a 6.6 per cent of the company in October (that's 7.36m shares, which came with a price tag of $161m).

Later that month Vivendi upped its stake to 10.39 per cent and began mulling a purchase of Gameloft, the mobile game company founded by Ubisoft boss Yves Guillemot and his brothers.

At the time, Guillemot called the move "unsolicited and unwelcome". Vivendi said it was all "part of a strategic vision of operational convergence between Vivendi's content and platforms on one hand and the Ubisoft and Gameloft productions in video games on the other."

In February, Vivendi went ahead and nabbed 30 per cent of Gameloft, enough to trigger a mandatory take-over bid under French law. Vivendi is still tempting shareholders to sell their stock by paying for shares at 50 per cent above their actual value.

Now, Ubisoft is fighting back by asking Canadian investors to pledge their support for the company.

Guillemot has also met with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau - likely to discuss the thousands of Canadian Ubisoft employees who could be affected by a Vivendi takeover (thanks, Gamasutra).

Simply put, Ubisoft says its employees would be better protected at a Ubisoft still under Ubisoft's control.

"We want to increase the number of Canadian shareholders in Ubisoft to have better control over the capital," Guillemot told Canadian paper The Globe and Mail. "We feel it's a good defence."

Ubisoft has also been busy with a plan to refocus its games output.

The company will move away from launching "fire and forget" games, Guillemot told investors earlier this month, to supporting multiplayer-led games all year around and then over multiple years - notably with the upcoming The Division.

Meanwhile, star brand Assassin's Creed is being rested for a year while the company puts more time and effort into refreshing the series' formula. And, when the franchise does return, it probably won't come out every year any more.

Of course, the more profitable Ubisoft is, the more attractive it becomes to Vivendi. It may be some time before the publisher can fully shake off Vivendi's takeover bid.

Cover image for YouTube video14 minutes of new The Division gameplay - Is it Ubisoft's answer to Destiny?