Lara Croft developer accepts £84m bid from Japan
She has beaten gangsters, dinosaurs and the Angel of Death, but even Lara Croft couldn't fight off the credit crunch. The pixelated English rose could be packing her bags and moving east after the company responsible for the Tomb Raider series accepted a bid from a Japanese rival.
The troubled gaming group Eidos yesterday announced it had accepted an £84.3m offer from Square Enix, the Tokyo-based company that developed the hugely successful Final Fantasy series. It is not yet a done deal, however, with talk of a possible counterbid before Eidos hits "game over".
Eidos's shares soared in the wake of the announcement, more than doubling to close at 31.25p.
The 32p-per-share offer marks a staggering 258 per cent premium to Eidos's closing share price the day before it announced it had received a takeover bid last month.
Both sides were talking up the merits of the agreed deal yesterday, but the market is eagerly waiting on developments at Warner Brothers. The US giant holds a 20 per cent stake in Eidos. Yet the terms of its stake mean that it cannot block a bid, and can choose either to sell its holding or put a rival offer on the table. Warner was unavailable for comment last night.
Tim Ryan, the chairman of Eidos, said the offer provided shareholders with "an attractive price and certainty in today's challenging market backdrop and economic outlook".
This marks the latest step in an aggressive plan to expand west by Square Enix. Their Final Fantasy series may be a household name for gamers in the UK, but the company itself is barely known.
Along with picking up what it calls a "talented developer and publisher of interactive entertainment products", it will also get its hands on the hugely successful games Hitman, Kane & Lynch and Championship Manager.
Yoichi Wada, the president of Square Enix, praised the "broad portfolio of highly successful mass-market franchises, led by Tomb Raider, one of the most successful video-game franchises of all time".
Square Enix, which employs about 3,000 people, announced yesterday it was to postpone the latest Dragon Quest game, and cut its full-year profit forecast. It makes games for consoles and PCs, mobile phones and amusement arcades. The group, which also owns a series of comic books, traces its roots back to 1975, but emerged in its current form when Enix merged with Square in 2003.
Eidos, previously known as SCi Entertainment, has suffered a troubled 18 months. After difficult trading conditions, collapsed bids and a string of profits warnings, the former management was ousted early in 2008.
It changed its name from SCi in December, shortly before revealing the downturn had hit sales and that it could breach its debt covenants. The group added that sales of Lara Croft Underworld had been disappointing over Christmas.