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Sweden's Embracer expands reach with $2.5 billion game buying spree

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -Sweden’s Embracer agreed on Wednesday to buy three gaming companies including U.S.-based Gearbox, which makes the first-person shooter game Borderlands, for up to $2.5 billion.

Since going public in 2016 Embracer has been in a race with France’s Ubisoft, of Assassin’s Creed fame, and Poland’s CD Projekt, maker of Cyberpunk 2077, to become the biggest European gaming company.

Embracer’s shares rose 10% to 221 Swedish crowns on news of the deals, which are in a mixture of stock and cash.

Analysts at Citigroup said in a client note that the deals are likely to be accretive to consensus earnings from the get-go and they appear to make sense strategically, particularly the Easybrain takeover, which moves Embracer further into mobile.

Known for games such as Darksiders and World War Z, Embracer said it will initially pay Gearbox $363 million with a commitment to pay $1 billion more in the next six years if operational and financial conditions are met.

Founded by Lars Wingefors, who is also its main owner, Embracer has been a stock market darling whose price has more than doubled in the last year, boosted by a stream of game studio acquisitions.

In November, it bought a dozen small game studios in one day after purchasing seven in August and spending $525 million on buying U.S. game developer Saber Interactive in February.

On Wednesday it also bought Cyprus-based Easybrain, a maker of advertising-based puzzle and logic games, for $640 million with an additional consideration of $125 million based on targets over the next six years.

Easybrain would still be run by its existing management, who will become the third largest shareholder in Embracer.

Embracer’s third purchase, U.S.-based Aspyr Media Inc, was for $100 million, along with a target-based payment of another $350 million.

Aspyr Media publishes video games across several platforms and started off by bringing PC gaming franchises such as Call of Duty and Star Wars to Apple’s Mac platform.

Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee and Johannes Hellstrom based in Stockholm; Editing by Jason Neely and Alexander Smith

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