Angry Birds developer takes aims at New York IPO

NEW YORK/HELSINKI Fri Mar 18, 2011 12:57pm EDT

Rovio Chief Executive Mikael Hed stands in front of an Angry Birds poster at his company's offices in Helsinki August 16, 2010. REUTERS/Georgina Prodhan

Rovio Chief Executive Mikael Hed stands in front of an Angry Birds poster at his company's offices in Helsinki August 16, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Georgina Prodhan

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NEW YORK/HELSINKI (Reuters) - Rovio, the developer of the "Angry Birds" mobile game, plans a U.S. initial public offering in the next five years, a move that could give investors a chance to tap into the fastest growing segment of the video game industry.

The chairman of Rovio Mobile's board, Kaj Hed, told Reuters on Friday that the IPO would be in the next five years and listed in the United States, likely on the Nasdaq.

"Our fans are primarily in U.S., so it's easy for us to bring our brand there," said Hed, who is also the father of co-founder and Chief Executive Mikael Hed.

Hed said he believes an IPO is a better route for Rovio than a sale to another company. Rovio's publisher, Chillingo, was sold to Electronic Arts in October.

Hed, who along with his family owns a majority of the company, plans to keep its headquarters in Finland.

A pop culture phenomenon and one of the hottest mobile games, "Angry Birds" features birds destroying the pigs who stole their eggs, with the help of a slingshot. More than 75 million paid and ad-supported versions of the game have been downloaded.

Mobile games are expected to grow worldwide revenue by 19 percent to more than $5.6 billion this year, according to research firm Gartner. Sales are forecast to grow to $11.4 billion in 2014, and are expected to eat into the revenue of traditional game publishers, those that create action or sports games played on consoles and TV sets.

Still, some investors may be hesitant to give Rovio a chance, since it could be viewed as a one-hit wonder with "Angry Birds."

"Investors tend to be more skeptical and want to see a track record of more than one product," said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter.

News of the IPO plans comes on the heels of Rovio's moves to raise $42 million in funding from investors and name Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstroem to its board.

Other publicly traded companies that focus on mobile games are Gameloft, which is listed in Paris, and Glu Mobile, which is listed on the Nasdaq.

Kaj Hed first told about the plans to list in New York in an interview with Talouselama, a business magazine in Finland.

(Additional reporting by Alina Selyukh, editing by Dave Zimmerman and John Wallace)

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