COMMENT: Hitman and her

Business spectators claim that when Warner was sniffing around the SCi Group late last year, the Board of the UK publisher chose to hold out for a deal worth 6-7 a share. In the end, the US media giant acquired a ten per cent stake in the company at a price of 502p.

But stock collapsed in July this year when SCi warned that it would take a hit of some 14 million in this financial year, due in the main to spiralling downwards retail pricing on PS2 titles. And since then the Hitman publisher has been trading at under 350p.

To be fair, City analysts are suggesting that the publisher that most dealers will know as ‘The Lara Croft company’ has been trading below its true value. And the announcement by SCi this week that it is in early talks with a potential suitor have lifted shares to a more reasonable level (while the few suggestions that it was a ‘smoke and mirrors’ move to achieve just that have been dismissed by the more sensible spectators).

However, there’s increasingly loud chatter that more bad fiscal news could be on its way from SCi. And that could well be a major factor in leading Cavanagh and co to look more closely at any offers that come to the table.

Meanwhile, whatever the interest – and varying likelihood – of deals from Warner, to EA, to Ubisoft, one potential wild card in the pack has been earmarked by a number financial watchers as Robert Tchenguiz. A property investor and entrepreneur, Tchenguiz boasts a 22 per cent stake in SCi and his approval of a deal will be crucial to any potential owner of the Group.

As our front page story points out, the tittle-tattle is very much focused on who will acquire SCi, rather than if a deal will ultimately emerge.

But as the market moves towards the peak selling seaons of Q4, arguably the most important thing right now is that SCI and its staff stay totally focused on the immediate road ahead.

When you are a public company any kind of dalliance or approach has to be disclosed. But ultimately there is no sure guarantee that there will a significant change of ownership at all – let alone in the near future.

But everyone loves a gossip in this business. And it would appear that we love nothing more than a gossip about Lara.

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