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Atari and Vivendi Race To Ubisoft's Rescue?

Speaking in a Reuters interview, Infogrames/Atari CEO Bruno Bonnell has indicated that the company could play a role in defending fellow French publisher Ubisoft from pos...
Speaking in a Reuters interview, Infogrames/Atari CEO Bruno Bonnell has indicated that the company could play a role in defending fellow French publisher Ubisoft from possible takeover plans from Electronic Arts. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot has already indicated that he considers Electronic Arts' purchase of 19.9 percent of the company’s stock to be a hostile move, although whether he will accept any help from arch rival Infogrames is yet to be seen. According to Bonnell, “Electronic Arts certainly did not enter Ubisoft's capital to just stay at that level... I hope Ubisoft will find ways to defend itself so that Infogrames does not become the last bastion in the European video games industry. It would be a pity to see great European creations end up in a relatively hegemonic U.S. conglomerate." Despite this strong talk, Bonnell did not elaborate on exactly how Infogrames might help Ubisoft, especially when his own company appears to be suffering its own financial difficulties. Infogrames recently postponed a shareholder vote on part of a new stock plan until January 19th. The plan would see the company issue fresh stock to help repay its €117 million ($155m) debts – if shareholders do not approve the plan, then Bonnell has indicated he would resign. If the plan is not approved, not only would the company be leaderless, but it would be unable to pay debts which are due in July and could well find itself open to hostile takeover bids from other companies. Incredibly, though, Infogrames is not the only French company keen to lend a hand to Ubisoft. A separate Reuters report, quoting French newspaper L’Agefi, suggests that Vivendi Universal are also considering helping out their fellow countrymen. According to L’Agefi, the two companies have already held preliminary talks, the possibility of a merger apparently being on the table. According to analysts the French government, which is often proactive in assisting prominent homegrown companies, has already approved of the discussions. "If the Vivendi scenario takes place then this could speed up things and force Electronic Arts to declare its intentions," said analyst Jean-Michel Salvador at Fideuram Wargny. Although its games division has underperformed for some time now, Vivendi Universal Group could certainly better afford to assist Ubisoft, and indeed would benefit greatly from its portfolio of titles. At the moment, though, both Vivendi and Ubisoft have refused to comment further.

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