Take-Two Interactive to remain independent

NEW YORK Thu Oct 2, 2008 2:26pm EDT

1 of 2. Strauss Zelnick, chairman of Take-Two Interactive Software speaks in Los Angeles July 16, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Phil McCarten

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Take-Two Interactive Software Inc, until recently an acquisition target of bigger rival Electronic Arts Inc, plans to remain an independent company, the makers of the popular "Grand Theft Auto" series said on Thursday.

Take-Two said the decision followed detailed discussions with "various interested parties" over the last five months.

Take-Two repeatedly said that it was weighing its options while talking with other potential suitors, although it has never named any other interested parties.

"Take-Two's Board of Directors has determined that it is in the best interests of stockholders to conclude its review of strategic alternatives and to continue operating and building Take-Two as an independent company," the company said.

In September, EA pulled away from an offer to buy Take-Two after pursuing the company for more than six months. They had been in private talks after EA dropped its hostile bid, worth roughly $2 billion, which the "GTA" publisher had rejected as inadequate.

Analysts have cautioned that by losing out on the wider distribution and cash reserve that Electronic Arts offered, Take-Two faces declining near-term sales and risks losing key employees -- namely Sam and Dan Houser, the Rockstar North executives seen as the driving force behind GTA. Both of their contracts expire early next year.

But Take-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick on Thursday reiterated that the company, whose roster of hit games also includes "Bioshock" and the 2K Sports series, is solid.

"We are strongly positioned creatively, financially and competitively to benefit from the opportunities we see in the fastest growing segment of the entertainment industry," he said is a statement.

Take-Two shares declined 6 percent to $14.98 on Thursday afternoon, and have dropped more than 38 percent over the last six months, a decline which Cowen & Co analyst Doug Creutz said presented a chance to buy at a bargain price.

"The official end of the strategic review process marks the return of management's full attention to the business of running a video game company," he said in a note to clients. "In our opinion, current share levels present investors with a compelling opportunity to get back into Take-Two shares ..."

(Reporting by Franklin Paul, editing by Bernard Orr)

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