Take-Two Gets It Right the Second Time

Upon further review, Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO  ) still isn't buying it.

Take-Two is once again rebuffing last month's unsolicited buyout offer from Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS  ) . "Our Board, after careful review, has unanimously determined that Electronic Arts' offer continues to provide insufficient value and remains opportunistically timed to capture the value of the upcoming Grand Theft Auto IV launch at the expense of our stockholders," the company noted in this morning's announcement. The highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto IV is rolling out next month.

You can't blame Take-Two for passing. Shortly after EA's offer to buy the company at $26 a share, the company beat Wall Street's expectations and raised its guidance. Now that Take-Two is looking to earn $1.35 to $1.55 a share in adjusted profits on $1.25 billion to $1.4 billion in revenue, EA's exit strategy priced the stock at just 17 to 19 times earnings.

EA, on the other hand, is fetching 28 times forward earnings, and those analyst profit targets have been coming down in recent months -- unlike Take-Two's bottom-line prospects, which are sharply on the rise.

Take-Two has no reason to punch out, especially now that it has hits in its portfolio other than the Grand Theft Auto franchise. BioShock and Carnival Games, for example, will be now be fleshed out with sequels.

Hostile takeovers rarely succeed when the acquisition target is an ascending company that another business is trying to snatch for a pittance. Giant Activision (Nasdaq: ATVI  ) is also trading at a year-ahead income multiple in the 20s, making a play for Take-Two accretive to earnings even before we consider the cost-saving synergies that would be realized in a corporate combination.

If a struggling Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) is brazen enough to reject Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) buyout at an earnings multiple three times greater than market leader Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , does anyone seriously believe that Take-Two will go for a multiple that is less than both EA or Activision?

Even THQ (Nasdaq: THQI  ) , a solid developer that relies more on licensed properties than killer in-house titles, is trading at 18 times forward earnings estimates. If Take-Two does get bought out, it will be at a respectable market premium. Bet on it.

David Gardner recommended Take-Two Interactive -- twice -- to Rule Breakers subscribers. It was a brilliant call. Investors got in early, before the buyout frenzy. That's the great thing about being an investor: You don't have to pay a premium over the current market price for any stock. Potential acquirers don't have the same luxury, especially when they're trying to steal a company the way EA is apparently trying to, right in broad daylight.

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