GameStop buying EB Games

Former retail rivals to merge in $1.44 billion deal; new company will be biggest game-store chain in America.

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With the launch of the PSP, the unveiling of all three next-generation platforms, and the almost assured launch of the next-gen Xbox, 2005 was already shaping up to be a wild year for the games industry. Today, it got even wilder when the two top specialty game retailers in the US revealed they will soon become one.

At the beginning of the East Coast business day, GameStop Corp. and Electronics Boutique Holdings Corp., owner of EB Games, announced they had signed a "definitive merger agreement." In fact, the deal will see GameStop, which saw $1.84 billion in sales during its last fiscal year, buy Electronics Boutique, which sold $1.98 billion sales during its 2005 fiscal year.

A joint statement sent out by both companies outlined the deal, under which GameStop will pay $38.15 in cash and 0.78795 shares of GameStop common stock for each Electronics Boutique share. The cash-stock combination is worth $55.18, 34.2 percent over EB's $41.12 closing price on Friday. EB's stock rocketed skyward on the news and was up over $14.50 as of press time. GameStop stock also rose on the news, gaining more than $3.10 in value.

Upon its closing, the agreement will see the two companies merge operations under the GameStop banner, which will then fly over 3,200 stores in the US and 600 others in Europe and Australasia. However, to not disrupt plans for the 2005 holiday season, no changes will be made in either company's organization until 2006. Then, in mall locations where there is duplication in retail outlets, store closings will follow "when appropriate," according to a GameStop official.

Though technically a takeover, the GameStop-EB merger met with glowing approval from both parties. "This transaction makes a tremendous amount of sense from an operational, cultural, and synergistic perspective," said EB CEO Jeffrey Griffiths. "We will now be in an even better position to broaden our reach and generate further efficiencies for our business and our customers." Griffiths' role in the new company was not identified.

GameStop chairman and chief executive officer R. Richard Fontaine also had good things to say about the deal, which isn't surprising, as he will retain this top slot after the merger. "We are merging these two companies from a position of strength," he said in a statement. Fontaine also confirmed that one motivation was GameStop's desire to expand outside its traditional North American market. "This merger ... will enable us to enter new international markets and allow us to compete more effectively in the highly competitive US video game industry."

The new GameStop will be well suited to fight off competition from rivals like Wal-Mart and Blockbuster Video's Game Rush subchain. According to Reuters, the post-merger company will be the biggest game retailer in the US, controlling some 25 percent of the market.

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