What if the EA – T2 Merger Had Gone Through? We Ask Pachter

As GamePolitics readers know, Electronic Arts pursued the acquisition of Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive for the better part of 2008.

Timing, as they say, is everything.

The deal ultimately fell through when EA walked away from the table in mid-September.  Since then the global economy has gone into the toilet and the supposedly recession-proof video game industry has shown that it really isn’t.

But when EA made its offer to acquire T2 at $25.74 per share, the economy had not yet tanked. No one even dreamed of a Wall Street bailout, much less a potential bailout of the U.S. auto industry.

What if the deal had gone through, obligating EA to lay out huge piles of cash? Would it be like burning your savings on a new car and finding out the next day that your hours were being cut back at your job? Since the merger fell apart, EA has definitely hit a rough patch, laying off a thousand workers and shuttering some of its game development studios.

As for Take-Two, their stock will open south of $9 this morning. Since EA bailed on the merger, TTWO has plummeted, losing about 2/3 of its equity value in 90 days.

From here it seems like T2 would have been better off if the deal had gone through, but EA would have been in worse shape. But we’re not experts, so we put the question to Wedbush-Morgan analyst Michael Pachter. Here’s what Pachter told us:

[My answer is] totally speculative.  Had EA completed the deal, the TTWO shareholders at the time would have benefited, but other than Oppenheimer (who has been listed as a large shareholder the entire time), it’s hard to say that there are many of those other shareholders still around.  I think that many of the shareholders who bought to take advantage of EA’s offer were sellers when the offer was withdrawn, so only a small number of current shareholders, including Oppenheimer, were actually involved in the stock back then.

EA would be a mess had it completed the deal.  In addition to its own restructuring (which is just getting underway), the company would have been faced with re-signing the Housers and with cutting significant costs out of Take-Two in order to fully achieve synergies from the deal. 

I don’t think a low cash balance [due to the T2 purchase] would be particularly relevant, since EA has a line of credit and is not burning significant cash, but it would have forced decisive action.

Notwithstanding, this is purely speculative.  I think EA would be a stronger company if combined with Take-Two, as the latter company has several valuable franchises and a combination would have given EA a near monopoly in sports.  Had they signed the Housers, EA would have been well-positioned to develop incremental new IP, and would have had one of the strongest franchises around in GTA.

But it didn’t happen, and doesn’t look like it will over the near term

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