Take-Two Interactive to buy FarmVille creator Zynga for $12.7 billion

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Signage on Zynga headquarters in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Zynga Inc. is expected to release earnings figures on August 5.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Take-Two Interactive is buying mobile gaming company Zynga for $12.7 billion with a mix of cash and stock, marking the latest blockbuster acquisition in a string of major deals in the video game industry.

The company announced Monday that it would acquire all outstanding shares of Zynga at $9.86 a share, a 64% premium to Zynga’s closing price Friday. Shares of Zynga skyrocketed 49% in U.S. pre-market trade.

Take-Two said Zynga shareholders will receive $3.50 in cash and $6.36 in Take-Two stock for each share of Zynga outstanding at the closing of the transaction. The deal, which is subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals, is expected to close by June 30, 2022.

“This strategic combination brings together our best-in-class console and PC franchises, with a market-leading, diversified mobile publishing platform that has a rich history of innovation and creativity,” Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick said in a press release.

Best known for its FarmVille series, Zynga initially flourished on Facebook, at one point becoming the most successful app developer on the platform. In the years since, Zynga turned its focus to mobile, hoping to capitalize on explosive growth in the smartphone era.

While the company was viewed as a key beneficiary of stay-at-home trends brought about by Covid-19, its share price has fallen nearly 38% in the past year, with some investors questioning whether the pandemic gaming boom has legs in the long term.

Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities, said the acquisition was a “solid move.” He has a $15 price target on Zynga stock, much higher than the offer from Take-Two.

“Take-Two should see an acceleration of its mobile business, including taking existing brands and turning them into mobile franchise,” Pachter told CNBC by email.

While FarmVille is Zynga’s most well-known game, it has published several other notable titles including CSR Racing, Empires & Puzzles and Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells, which is based on Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter franchise.

Take Two, which is known for Grand Theft Auto and other blockbuster console and PC franchises, is hoping to tap into the continued growth of mobile gaming, which accounts for more than half of the entire video game industry.

Take-Two, which reported $6.1 billion in net bookings in the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2021, said it expects mobile to comprise over 50% of its net bookings in the next fiscal year, up from 12% in fiscal 2022.

Strauss said he expects the deal to create $100 million in annual cost synergies within the first two years after closing and potential net bookings of at least $500 million over time.

The deal follows a series of consolidation efforts in the $180 billion video game industry.

Microsoft bought Bethesda, the company behind the Fallout and The Elder Scrolls franchises, for $7.5 billion in 2020, while Electronic Arts acquired U.K. racing game developer Codemasters for $1.2 billion later that year.

In 2021, Tencent announced deals to buy British gaming studio Sumo Group, as well as Turtle Rock Studios, the U.S.-based creator of zombie game Back4Blood.

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