Exclusive: Hasbro ends talks to buy Lions Gate Entertainment - sources

(Reuters) - Hasbro Inc, the maker of games ranging from Monopoly to foam Nerf balls, has ended talks to acquire U.S. movie studio and entertainment company Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: A Transformers statue stands on display at the Hasbro booth during the 2014 Comic-Con International Convention in San Diego, California July 25, 2014. REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker/File Photo

The deal would have given Hasbro a direct pipeline into Hollywood with more movies and TV shows tied to its toy brands.

The Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based company has worked with Viacom Inc’s Paramount Pictures on the “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe” film franchises, and with the Lionsgate movie studio on a “My Little Pony” film, due in theaters in October.

The negotiations with Lions Gate ended last week because of price disagreements, the sources said, asking not to be identified because the talks were confidential. It is not clear whether negotiations could restart in the future.

Lions Gate declined to comment. Hasbro did not respond to a request for comment.

Hasbro shares fell 1.9 percent to $103.90, giving the company a market value of about $12.9 billion. Shares of Lions Gate were trading almost flat at $29.25, representing an overall market value of close to $5.9 billion.

Hasbro has taken several steps to boost its presence in the entertainment business as a way to fuel toy sales. The company operates Hasbro Studios, which produces TV shows such as the upcoming Netflix Inc series “Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters.”

In 2014, Hasbro held merger discussions with DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc, the studio behind “Shrek,” but DreamWorks was subsequently bought by Comcast Corp.

By owning Lions Gate, Hasbro would have been able to tap the talent behind “The Hunger Games,” “La La Land” and other hit films, and distribute the movies directly to theaters. It also would have taken over a TV division that produces series such as “Orange is the New Black” and “Nashville.”

“Synergies would be realized from overlap in creative, marketing, production, and verticalization of content model,” according to Jefferies LLC analysts.

A deal would have come a year after Lions Gate acquired premium U.S. television network Starz in a $4.4 billion cash-and-stock deal, aimed at making it less dependent on delivering blockbuster movies by giving it ownership of pay television channels with more than 30 million subscribers.

Lions Gate Chairman Mark Rachesky’s hedge fund MHR Fund Management LLC is the company’s largest shareholder. Media mogul John Malone, who is also a shareholder, has a seat on the company’s board as well. Lions Gate vice chairman and board member Michael Burns also sits on the board of Hasbro.

Hasbro plans to release toys tied to several movies later this year, including Walt Disney Co’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis and Jessica Toonkel in New York; Additional reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Rigby