(Corrects in the last paragraph the annual revenue target (2 billion and not 3 billion)
by Mathieu Rosemain
PARIS (Reuters) – The French video game publisher Ubisoft remains open to partnerships after the agreement with the Chinese giant Tencent which will increase the capital of the company, said its CEO and co-founder Yves Guillemot.
The Assassin’s Creed, Rabbids or Just Dance studio presented the Ubisoft Forward conference on Saturday evening, broadcast online, in order to unveil its new products for 2023 in preview, in particular the next installment of Assassin’s Creed – Mirage -, a franchise celebrating its 15th anniversary.
Yves Guillemot’s remarks were made Thursday at a press conference, and could only be made public during Ubisoft Forward.
Ubisoft, the French number one created in 1986, announced Tuesday evening an agreement with Tencent which authorizes the Chinese to increase the capital of the group and within the Guillemot family holding company, which thus protects itself against a potential offensive in a sector in full consolidation.
The operation values the group at more than ten billion euros, which suffered a rough ride on the stock market after the announcement of the agreement.
Tencent is authorized to increase its stake from 4.99% to 9.99% and has taken 49.9% of the capital of Guillemot Brothers Limited, for only 5% of voting rights. He will not be represented on the Board of Directors and will have no approval or operational veto rights.
“We remain completely independent, and we can act with any outside company if we want,” said Thursday Yves Guillemot, founder of Ubisoft with his four brothers.
“We can do whatever we want,” he insisted.
Analysts and market players note that the operation with Tencent indeed removes any speculative appeal from the group, which had managed to repel a raid launched in 2015 by Vivendi.
The family had, however, been shaken by the hostile takeover of Vincent Bolloré’s group, in 2016, on Gameloft, the mobile game publisher created by Michel Guillemot.
The Breton siblings do not intend to give in to predators, while Microsoft is seeking Activision Blizzard, owner of Call of Duty, Warcraft and Candy Crush, for 69 billion dollars.
“Our primary intention is to be masters of our destiny,” insisted Yves Guillemot, 62.
The accusations of harassment, launched in the summer of 2020 on social networks, by several women against Ubisoft executives also rocked the ship. Targeted by a complaint from Solidaires Informatique for “institutionalized sexual harassment”, the group has since overhauled its governance and initiated an internal policy against abusive behavior.
“Yes, we stumbled, and we recognized it”, testified Yves Guillemot.
“We have learned a lot and made significant progress with concrete action plans under the leadership of our leaders.”
Another pitfall, the group had to revise its plans in the face of disappointing sales and postpone the release of several titles.
It is counting on its three pillars – “Assassin’s Creed”, “FarCry” and “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six” – to return to growth via a boom on all digital platforms, said Yves Guillemot, who expects two billion euros annual revenue in five years.
(Report Mathieu Rosemain, French version Sophie Louet)
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