I wasn't the only one laughing at Electronic Arts' (Nasdaq: ERTS ) silly tender extension for Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO ) yesterday.
Take-Two itself even got in on the fun.
"Our Board of Directors remains in unanimous agreement that the proposal is contrary to the best interests of Take-Two stockholders, and the Board continues to recommend that stockholders not tender their shares to EA," Take-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick notes in his company's official response. "The Board remains focused on the strategic process that began formally on April 30 to consider all alternatives to maximize value. We believe that these alternatives, which may include a business combination or remaining independent, will deliver greater value to stockholders than the current EA offer."
In other words, it's not just about caving in to EA's lowball $25.74-a-share offer or making it as a stand-alone company. There are "alternatives" which may lead to a better buyout offer.
Is this just a negotiating tactic? No other suitor has gone public with an intention to go after Take-Two. However, there are plenty of companies that would love to get their hands on the company behind BioShock, Carnival Games, Manhunt, and the fastest-selling game of all time, Grand Theft Auto IV.
Four for the road
For those scoring at home, here are the companies that would have plenty to gain in offering more than $2 billion for Take-Two Interactive.
- Viacom (NYSE: VIA ) : The parent company of MTV has been trying to stay relevant with young diehard gamers with the release of the Rock Band video game and the acquisition of gamer connectivity hub Xfire. Take-Two would give Viacom the biggest franchise in the video game industry, reaching out to what people are playing when they're not watching Viacom's MTV, Comedy Central, or SpikeTV. Take-Two's renegade properties would also make ideal cinematic properties for Viacom's Paramount.
- Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) : Everyone knows that Microsoft is a big fan of Take-Two. The software giant is paying $50 million for a pair of Xbox-exclusive episodic installments to GTA4. It would love nothing more than to keep the Grand Theft Auto franchise to itself, giving it another console-specific blockbuster like Halo.
- Sony (NYSE: SNE ) : The PlayStation 3 parent is in a pickle. Its PS2 led the market during the last generation of systems, but the PS3 trails both the Xbox 360 and the Wii this time around. Sony could certainly use a hot developer to create more marquee titles that are only available on the PS3. The reason Nintendo (OTCBB: NTODY.PK) is doing so well financially with its Wii is that the company makes several of its hottest games. They only play on the Wii. Sony needs more skin in that game.
- Activision (Nasdaq: ATVI ) : The Guitar Hero rock star still has World of Warcraft's Blizzard Entertainment working its way through its digestive tract, so it's unlikely to enter big deals. However, snapping up Take-Two would make it the undisputed industry leader. Take-Two's sporting title lines would also give Activision a presence against niche leader EA Sports.
Stealing Grand Theft Auto
There are more possible buyers out there. Feel free to use the comment box at the bottom of this page to suggest likely suitors or agree with any on my short list. With Take-Two at the top of its game, it makes sense for the company to entertain potential nibblers.
Either way, EA is playing a risky game by letting time go by with undersubscribed tender offers. There are plenty of logical buyers. Take-Two's fundamentals improve with every passing quarter. Now if only a third party would step up and really make things exciting.
EA needs Take-Two more than Take-Two needs EA, but nothing mixes up a dull courtship like another gentleman caller.