Ubisoft is currently looking for Canadian investors in an attempt to defend a takeover by media company Vivendi SA. Ubisoft's executives confirmed to The Globe and Mail that they're meeting with potential Canadian investors for support. Ubisoft currently has studios in Montreal, Quebec, and Toronto, so the region is very important to the company overall. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot is playing up the 3,000 employees Ubisoft has in Canada as it talks to investors.
"We want to increase the number of Canadian shareholders in Ubisoft to have better control over the capital," Guillemot told the Globe and Mail. "We feel it's a good defense."
If Vivendi sounds familiar to you, that's because the media giant was the former parent company of Activision Blizzard. Led by CEO Bobby Kotick, Activision bought 429 million shares from Vivendi in July 2013, making the publisher independent again. In January of this year, Vivendi sold its remaining 5.7 percent stake in Activision Blizzard for around $1.1 billion, washing its hands of the company completely.
Ubisoft is only one of the many companies founded and partially-owned by the Guillemot brothers, which includes Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. Vivendi has turned its attention away from Activision Blizzard towards Ubisoft and other holdings run by the Guillemot brothers. Vivendi recently attempted a hostile takeover bid with Gameloft, the Guillemot's mobile company. The media giant owns a 30 percent stake in Gameloft and a 15 percent stake in Ubisoft after slowly beginning a purchase of shares in October of last year.
"Our intention is and has always been to remain independent, a value which, for 30 years, has allowed us to innovate, take risks, create beloved franchises for players around the world, and which has helped the company grow into the leader it is today," Yves Guillemot said at the time.
"We're going to fight to preserve our independence. We should not let this situation - nor any future actions by Vivendi or others - distract us from our goals. Our best defence is to stay focused on what we have always done best - deliver the most original and memorable gaming experiences."
Vivendi is a French company, so once its Gameloft stake went above 30 percent, French law forced the company to forward a takeover offer. Shareholders still have to take the deal.
"Vivendi intends to offer Gameloft new development levers, both industrial and financial [and] is convinced that, as with its other businesses, the key to success for a company such as Gameloft is the development of its creative content and talent," said Vivendi in a statement.
Many think that the Gameloft deal is simply a way for Vivendi to open talks with the Guillemot family in relation to Ubisoft. The worry is that a hostile takeover of Ubisoft could alienate the Guillemots and Ubisoft employees that are loyal to them, which could cause some defections of talent.
This puts Ubisoft's current management even further under the microscope when it comes to shareholders. That's probably why Assassin's Creed has been pushed back after the performance of Syndicate and Unity, to keep the company's biggest brand from completely faltering and give other IP like Watch_Dogs a chance to establish themselves. It's also why Ubisoft is adding more higher-revenue multiplayer games to its slate like The Division, The Crew, Rainbow Six: Siege, and For Honor. Basically, expect Ubisoft to make moves to show shareholders that it can improve year-over-year.