EA offers $2 billion to take over Take-Two

Posted by Mark Raby

San Francisco (CA) - Electronic Arts is trying to expand its gaming chops by attempting to acquire Take-Two Interactive, the publisher best known for the Grand Theft Auto series.

Take-Two is known in infamy not only for its controversial Grand Theft Auto games, but also the even more gratuitously violent Manhunt 2, which remains banned in Europe.  Everything the New York-based publisher touches seems to make headlines.

EA announced over the weekend that it has offered Take-Two an all-cash offer to buy all of its outstanding shares for $26 each, a 64% premium over the $15.83 price at the time of the offer.  EA said it made the offer on February 15.  Take-Two's closing stock price on Friday was $17.36.

EA CEO John Riccitiello played up the offer by writing, "There can be no certainty that in the future EA or any other buyer would pay the same high premium we are offering today," in his letter to Take-Two.

The timing of the offer is also of note.  Take-Two's largest game and what could be its most popular to date, Grand Theft Auto IV, is just a couple months away from being released.  EA is no doubt hoping to cash in on this landmark title's launch.  That could be good for Take-Two as well, though.  As the biggest independent game publisher in the world, EA has an enormous marketing machine.

The GTA makers don't necessarily see it that way.  "Electronic Arts' proposal provides insufficient value to our shareholders and comes at absolutely the wrong time," said a company chairman, Strauss Zelnick, in a statement yesterday.

EA offered to buy Take-Two for $25 a share earlier this year but was declined.  Negotiations for the current offer are still pending.