Are There Buyers for Vivendi’s Stake in Activision Blizzard?
Will we see another Vivendi sale?
The media conglomerate has a history of making deals at the Allen & Co conference happening this week in Sun Valley, Idaho. It was at this very event in 2009 that it hatched a plan to sell its stake in NBC Universal to Comcast.
Though Vivendi hasn’t officially put its stake in Activision Blizzard on the block, sources tell me it’s starting talks with the giants who have the $8 billion plus to buy its 60 percent stake in the game-maker.
These conversations are part of Vivendi’s greater process of figuring out what do with all parts of its business. Everything is very much up in the air, so we won’t necessarily see a sale. We can bet that it all comes down to how much the buyers are willing to pay.
CEO Bobby Kotick is at the Sun Valley confab, along with a laundry list of potential buyers. Microsoft ,of course, has a big investment in games with its Xbox 360 business, as well as big titles like Halo. Time Warner has also been thrown out there — it’s committed to all sorts of content, and has plenty of cash on hand. Another potential match is Chinese Internet giant Tencent, which recently struck a deal with Activision to bring "Call of Duty" online to China. And then there are the private equity players with a taste for media: Providence, KKR, and Blackstone. Representatives from all these companies have attended Sun Valley in years past.
None of these companies will comment: I hear they’re kicking the tires, but sources tell me there hasn’t been a huge amount of interest, especially at an $8 billion price tag. The concerns about the company are straightforward — Activision is the largest player in the packaged video game business, which has suffered industry-wide declines. One source said there are concerns that the video game industry peaked in 2011. Another said that the fact that only 60 percent of the company is up for sale is a huge disadvantage, as the new owner wouldn’t have that much control or freedom, especially in light of CEO Kotick’s big personality.
Activision shares ended Monday just four cents in the green. In the midst of these swirling rumors, Monday Activision announced it’s making a video game based on the popular TV show “Walking Dead.” Over the past 12 months Activision’s stock is flat: The upside it’s seen from huge hits like "Call of Duty" has been outweighed by concerns about social and mobile games, like Zynga’s eating into its business. Another option if Vivendi doesn’t find a buyer, Kotick could look to do a management buyout.
— By CNBC's Julia Boorstin
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of CNBC and NBC Universal.
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