LONDON Aug 18 One of the world's largest online
games companies, Miniclip, has hired advisers to find a buyer
after previous attempts to sell it fell through, according to
several sources familiar with the firm.
Miniclip is hoping to fetch up to $400 million and could
draw interest from "Candy Crush Saga" maker King Digital
Entertainment, said the sources who declined to be
named because the matter is confidential.
It founders had previously been in talks to sell to Walt
Disney Co. and "Farmville" creator Zynga, but
no deal was struck, the sources added.
Rothschild is advising Miniclip on the latest sale process,
one of the sources said.
Representatives of Miniclip, Disney and King Digital were
not available to comment. Spokesmen for Zynga and Rothschild
declined to comment.
Founded in 2001 by British-born Rob Small and Tihan Presbie,
Miniclip has grown from a video clip site to become popular
among mobile users with its mass-market multiplayer game "8 Ball
The company, which Small and Presbie have funded without
external investors, has annual core earnings of around $15
million, meaning its target valuation would be more than 20
times core earnings, according to the sources.
The global market for so-called casual games - online or
mobile games targeting a mass audience - is estimated to grow 4
percent to $7.6 billion in revenue this year and attract nearly
1.3 billion gamers, according to market researcher NewZoo.
But appetite among investors for casual games companies is
unpredictable, with many wary of an industry where the
popularity of apps can be short-lived and firms can struggle to
make money from a strategy that gives games away for free, while
charging for in-game purchases and online advertising.
Zynga lost about 25 percent of its users in one quarter last
year after its games plunged in popularity.
Shares in King Digital fell as much as 15 percent in their
first day of trading in March after a $7.1 billion initial
public offering, before recovering somewhat.
"The gaming industry is fickle and Miniclip has lost some
appeal," said one of the sources who pointed to its use of
older, Flash technology. "But a number of gaming companies who
like simple little games capable to work on mobile platforms
will consider bidding."
These could include large industry players, particularly
gaming and entertainment groups and possibly toymakers such as
Hasbro in the United States, another source said.
Miniclip ranks No. 12 among online game sites, according to
measurement firm SimilarWeb. It had an estimated 50 million
visitors in July, down from a six-month high of 64 million in
Headquartered in Switzerland, with more than 140 employees
worldwide, the company has published over 1,000 games on its
website, with an average of two new releases every week, and has
more than 45 mobile games.
The firm has been profitable since its inception, said the
It generates the bulk of its revenues from online
advertising, sales of subscriptions and virtual goods purchased
by users playing its games. It derives much of its traffic
through Google, where it ranks No. 1 in a search for "games" in
Its founders were hoping to strike a deal with Walt Disney
several years ago, but negotiations stumbled over personality
and cultural clashes, the second source said.
The company resumed its efforts to find a new owner last
year and received "serious, strong offers", including from
Zynga, despite an ongoing transition from online to mobile
devices which was difficult to price, the source said.
But the timing for a deal was not right, partly because of a
scandal in Japan over free games sites, which regulators put
under investigation following reports they encouraged children
to spend too much on in-game purchases, the source added.
(Additional reporting By Eric Auchard; Editing by Pravin Char)