Infogrames considers options on disposals

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Infogrames, the French video games publisher, is considering a range of options including further disposals and a deal with rival Ubisoft as it strives to restructure its business, according to Bruno Bonnell, executive chairman.

Mr Bonnell said speculation that Infogrames could merge with French games-maker Ubisoft was “premature”.

But he added: “We could do plenty of things together, even if we haven’t yet spoken.”

Ubisoft could also bid to acquire one or more of Infogrames’ games development studios, Mr Bonnell said.

Mr Bonnell, who founded Infogrames 23 years ago, acknowledged that he had held talks with Elevation Partners, the US private equity group whose partners include rock star Bono. But Mr Bonnell said Elevation’s proposals were “not compatible with our vision”.

Infogrames, which owns a controlling 51 per cent stake in troubled US games maker Atari, was also considering ending Atari’s Nasdaq quotation, he said.

“One of the options would be to re-focus the activities of each company on its core business,” said Mr Bonnell. “Atari could become the development studio for the American market whilst Infogrames would be the international publisher.”

Atari said in February there was “substantial doubt” over its future as a going concern.

Mr Bonnell was speaking at the E3 games fair in Los Angeles, where on Wednesday he announced the sale of a package of Infogrames and Atari assets to raise €20m ($25.6m) to pay down borrowings.

The disposals included rights to its Timeshift game, being bought by Vivendi Universal Games, and Stuntman, acquired by US rival THQ. Its on-line gaming site Games.com is being bought by AOL, and THQ is taking up an option to buy game development studio Paradigm Entertainment.

“The disposals aren’t over,” said Mr Bonnell. “There will be others.”

He said Infogrames had asked managers of its remaining four studios, Eden, Shiny, Melbourne House and Reflexions, to examine the possibility of mounting management buy-outs.

He said the restructuring was designed to make Infogrames better able to respond to changes in the games market as console makers moved to a new generation of devices.

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