Japan’s SoftBank in talks to acquire DreamWorks in billion dollar deal

Japan’s SoftBank Corp is in talks to acquire DreamWorks Animation, the Hollywood studio behind the Shrek and Madagascar movie hits, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

Japan’s SoftBank in talks to acquire DreamWorks in billion dollar deal

An acquisition of DreamWorks by SoftBank would make it part of a cash-rich Japanese communications and media company that, under founder and chief executive Masayoshi Son, has shown a willingness to take big bets on combining disparate businesses.

The talks were first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, which quoted an unidentified source as saying a buyout would value DreamWorks at $3.4bn (€2.6bn).

The entertainment trade publication said SoftBank had offered $32 per share for DreamWorks, a substantial premium to the stock’s Friday closing price of $22.36.

Buying DreamWorks, which is headed by veteran Hollywood producer and film executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, would make SoftBank the second Japanese technology company to buy a Hollywood studio, following Sony which bought Columbia Pictures in 1989.

SoftBank has recently cashed in on a share of its investment in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and dropped its pursuit of mobile carrier T-Mobile US in the face of opposition from anti-trust regulators in the United States.

Last week, SoftBank booked a $4.6bn (€3.63bn) gain on the share listing of Alibaba in New York.

SoftBank retains a 32% stake, making it Alibaba’s biggest shareholder.

SoftBank has significant stakes in other large listed entities, including US mobile carrier Sprint, through which it had pursued a deal for T-Mobile, internet portal Yahoo Japan and online games maker GungHo Online Entertainment.

A SoftBank spokesman said the company had no comment on the reported talks with DreamWorks.

A representative of DreamWorks could not be immediately reached for comment.

In July, SoftBank hired former Google executive Nikesh Arora to run a newly-created unit called SoftBank Internet and Media, reporting directly to Son, in a move that stoked speculation the telecommunications company could be considering a move to acquire content production assets.

SoftBank held the equivalent of more than $17bn in cash and equivalents as of the end of June, its most recent reported quarter.

DreamWorks, based in Glendale, California, has seen its share price drop 37% this year after two consecutive quarterly losses, a string of weak-performing releases such as Mr Peabody & Sherman and investor concern about the production costs of its movies.

Dreamworks Animation was spun off from DreamWorks Studios in 2004 as a separate listed company.

The earlier Dreamworks studio had been founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, music producer, David Geffen and Katzenberg, who moved with the spin-off, and remains chief executive of the animation company, which also has the franchise hit Kung Fu Panda and owns the rights to Felix the Cat.

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