Orange County Business Journal

Vivendi Pursues Sale of Blizzard Parent

Jonathan Polakoff Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Paris-based media and telecommunications conglomerate Vivendi SA has hired two investment banks to explore a sale of its majority stake in Santa Monica video game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc., which includes Blizzard Entertainment Inc. in Irvine.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Barclays PLC, have approached prospective buyers among video game makers and private equity firms.

The Blizzard unit is the biggest software maker in Orange, with an estimated $1.24 billion in annual sales. It has about 1,000 workers at its Irvine campus, and 4,700 overall.

Vivendi was rumored in recent weeks to be trying to sell Activision Blizzard. The news was confirmed for the first time last week by company’s Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou at the Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. Vivendi is working to reduce its debt load and boost its share price, which hit a nine-year low earlier this year.

Activision and its Blizzard unit are behind blockbuster console video game franchises “Call of Duty” and “World of War Craft.” But with the console business facing pressure from mobile gaming and cloud-based alternatives, analysts have noted that it has been hard to find a buyer for the 61 percent stake, which is valued at about $8.2 billion.

Another possibility is for Activision to buy the position, which originated when Activision merged with Vivendi’s gaming division five years ago. Such an option would likely require Activision to borrow money because it was about $3 billion in cash.

Shares of the video game publisher fell slightly Tuesday to $12.08.

Polakoff is a reporter for the Los Angeles Business Journal, a sister publication of the Orange County Business Journal