PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. video games producer Electronic Arts Inc (EA) is selling out of Ubisoft Entertainment SA six years after buying a big chunk of the world’s third-largest independent video games publisher.
A Ubisoft spokesman said EA was selling an unspecified stake in the French company. He would not confirm reports EA was selling its entire 14.8 percent stake.
A source close to Ubisoft, however, said Electronic Arts had given investment bank UBS a mandate to sell the entire stake.
Electronic Arts in 2004 bought a near 20 percent stake in Ubisoft, known for games such as “Avatar” and “Assassin’s Creed”, stoking speculation it might seek control of the whole company.
The move forced Ubisoft to accelerate its expansion as it repeatedly insisted it had the means to remain independent.
“Electronic Arts was seen as a natural bidder for Ubisoft, though a lot of people had given up with this idea a long time ago,” said one Paris-based trader.
“On the other hand, it may open the door to new investors who were not willing to enter Ubisoft and try to shake up things as Electronic Arts already owned 15 percent but was not doing anything with its stake,” he added.
As of May 2010, Electronic Arts owned 14.8 percent of Ubisoft and the founding Guillemot family 11.3 percent.
Ubisoft’s main competitors also include “Guitar Hero” publisher Activision Blizzard, world leader since its merger with Vivendi’s games unit.
Ubisoft shares were down 1.3 percent at 6.88 euros by 0858 GMT (4:58 a.m. EDT).
Reporting by Florent Le Quintrec, Dominique Vidalon and Blaise Robinson; Editing by Simon Jessop and David Holmes