Viacom to buy Take Two for $1.5 billion?

The entertainment giant headed by Sumner Redstone is owner of MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks Studios. Annual group revenues are over $11 billion.

MCV understands that Viacom has made an offer of $23 a share for the games company behind blockbusters such as Grand Theft Auto and Bioshock. Last night Take Two shares were trading at just under $16, but mid-term ratings have been increasing for the stock since it was confirmed that GTA IV would be released at the end of April.

If Viacom is genuinely willing to offer a 30 per cent premium on the current stock value, this is not massively out of line with recent share price targets set by analysts such as Brent Thrill at Citigroup.

Whilst the company’s current market cap is $1.16 billion, the Viacom interest could mean an offer for the company worth $1.5 billion. Major shareholders such as OppenheimerFunds, SAC Capital Management and Tudor Investment are known to be keen on selling their stakes should a good valuation emerge.

Now could be the perfect time for a predatory move, before the inevitable success of GTA IV returns some gloss to a company that has struggled for the past couple of years. Relations between the two organisations are also strong, with Take Two holding game rights to many Nickelodeon and MTV properties.

Indeed, last summer Viacom appointed former Take Two Germany boss Arwed-Ralf Grenzbach as VP of games for Nickelodeon and Viacom Consumer Products. Following the Vivendi takeover of Activision in December, similar swoops for games companies have been expected – as the big names from traditional entertainment sectors such as movies and TV look to get in on an upwardly mobile and highly profitable business.

Sumner Redstone, Viacom’s executive chairman, also retains a personal stake in fellow US games publisher Midway.

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