EA on Ubisoft buyout: "All options open"

Today's message from Electronic Arts CFO Warren Jenson reinforces option to buy as he tells analysts that "EA is wide open to acquisitions."

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Earlier today in New York City, at the Smith Barney Citigroup Leisure Day conference, Electronic Arts CFO Warren Jenson opened the event with a presentation on the long-term vision of the company and then followed that with a question-and-answer session with Smith Barney analysts.

While much of the conversation addressed general EA strategy, Jenson spent a few moments on the oft-discussed subject of acquisitions, specifically the current situation with Ubisoft. While many observers see a takeover as likely, EA is professing a methodical, if not plodding, strategy, overtly insisting that it seeks nothing more than a good return on its investment. At the same time, the company has made gestures and taken steps that leave the door open for acquisition of additional shares, and it has made moves that include seeking a seat on the company's board of directors, for example.

Today, in response to an analyst's question on where growth opportunities lie, from EA's perspective, Jenson said, "We are wide open, as we have been in the past, to acquisitions."

Jenson then reminded attendees of some of the company's more significant purchases. "This past year we made two [acquisitions], one with Digital Illusions in Sweden and the award-winning Battlefield franchise, which we think will be a big deal in terms of next-generation product. The second one [is] Criterion Games, with the award-winning Burnout series and a promising IP called Black...along with the technology that RenderWare brings to the table for Electronic Arts. We will continue to do that, continue to look for opportunities."

Moving the conversation toward Ubisoft, Jenson said, "There was a block of shares that was on the market [and] we thought it was important that we own them. And so we negotiated and were successful in reaching an agreement to acquire roughly 19, 20 percent of Ubisoft. From there, it's about keeping all of our options open. And…that's about as far as I will go."

But Jenson made it clear that one of those options might be an attempt to acquire Ubisoft, telling the audience of analysts that not only is the company "open" to acquisitions, but "we think they will continue to be a part of our growth story."

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