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Sonic-maker Sega offers to buy Angry Birds creator Rovio for $776 million

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Video game maker Sega Sammy Holdings Inc. offered to buy Rovio Entertainment Oyj in a deal that values the Finland-based creator of Angry Birds at about €706 million ($776 million).

Sega offered €9.25 per share in cash to the shareholders and €1.48 per option to the option holders of Rovio, according to a statement on Monday. The Finnish company’s board unanimously recommended shareholders accept the offer that is backed by 49% of shareholders, including Rovio’s founding Hed family.

Rovio shares rose as much as 19% to trade at €9.16 each as of 12:00 p.m. in Helsinki on Monday. The stock has surged more than 50% for the year to date amid deal speculation. Sega fell as much as 6.1% in Tokyo on Monday.

Japan’s Sega is doubling down on console and smartphone gaming for long-term growth as its traditional businesses of pachinko and arcade machines face dwindling audiences and have been in recent years hit by waves of Covid-19 restrictions. Some of its best known titles include Sonic the HedgehogCrazy Taxi and Yakuza. Analysts agree Rovio’s existing games lineup will bring it solid cash flow, but disagree on the deal’s other merits.

“Among the rapidly growing global gaming market, the mobile gaming market has especially high potential, and it has been Sega’s long-term goal to accelerate its expansion in this field,” Sega Chief Executive Officer Haruki Satomi said in the statement. 

For Rovio, the famous Angry Birds franchise is the cornerstone of the Finnish company’s operations. First released in app stores in 2009, the branded mobile games generate more than 80% of its gross bookings. It was the first mobile game to reach 1 billion downloads, and Rovio went public in 2017 on the back of its success, with a market value of about €900 million. 

“The deal’s sole purpose is just to get a stable cash flow for Sega,” said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Toyo Securities. “Unfortunately, Rovio hasn’t been able to release new hit games. I can’t see any upside from this deal.”

OP Group Analyst Kimmo Stenvall also said Rovio’s existing games “generate good earnings, cash flow is strong and the company has a large net cash position.” 

“In addition to the brand, the games and its multiple studios, Rovio has a mobile games management platform Beacon, which provides a very effective way of making user acquisition investments to generate returns and develop the games,” Stenvall said by phone. “That is certainly an asset that Sega can benefit from.”

Still, Rovio’s reliance on the Angry Birds has worried investors, and the company has sought to expand to other brands and types of games. It has “several” new games in development and has acquired smaller rivals and games studios to grow in hyper-casual and puzzle games.

The company’s first months on the stock exchange were characterized by dramatic slumps after its financial disclosures disappointed shareholders. The shares have never fully recouped the losses.

In its early years, the Finnish firm developed more than 50 games, typically with gloomy titles such as Darkest FearCyber Blood, and Wolf Moon, before striking gold with Angry Birds, an entertaining confection that capitalized on the iPhone’s touchscreen technology, new at the time.

The company calls the Angry Birds brand its “most precious asset,” bringing it discoverability in the crowded gaming market, and even generates a small slice of its revenue from licensing. Recent projects include a Netflix Inc. show that followed two movies since 2016, and Rovio also generates royalties from consumer products.

Sega’s offer is a premium of 63% compared to Rovio’s closing price on Jan. 19, prior to Playtika’s offer, and about 19% relative to the closing price on Friday. Sega plans to start the offer around May 8.

The deal brings to a close talks the Finnish mobile-game maker had engaged in with multiple parties since a €9.05 a share approach from Israel-based Playtika Holding Corp. had become public in January. Rovio said on March 22 that it had ended talks with Israel-based Playtika, but continued discussions with other parties it didn’t identify. 

While Rovio hasn’t said why it rejected Playtika, Inderes analyst Atte Riikola said in January that its history of buying Finnish game studios closing their the local offices was a possible reason Rovio’s founding family, which controls about 39% of shares, decided against it.

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