Infogrames taking Atari private?

Parent of troubled Alone in the Dark publisher makes offer to buy back all publicly held stock for $1.68.

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It has been a busy week for Atari. On Monday, the New York-based publisher made headlines when its parent company, French publisher Infogrames SA, announced it had hired former Sony Worldwide Studios president Phil Harrison to be its president and director general. While rumored, the move came as a shock, given Atari's dire financial straits.

As the West Coast business day wound down on Thursday, Atari surprised the industry again. The Alone in the Dark publisher announced that it had "received a letter from Infogrames Entertainment SA, Atari, Inc.'s majority shareholder, regarding IESA's non-binding expression of intent to acquire the outstanding common stock of Atari, Inc. not owned by IESA and its affiliates." The offer would pay owners of the stock a $0.02 premium on the $1.66 price it closed at on the NASDAQ market on Thursday.

If successful, Infogrames' move would spare Atari the ignominy of being delisted from the NASDAQ, which it has been repeatedly threatened with. It would also take the company private, allowing major, company-wide decisions to be made more quickly and easily than in a publicly traded entity.

However, while the buyout is likely to be approved by Atari's board, given the fact that Infogrames essentially controls the company, it is not guaranteed. "The offer is non-binding and there is no assurance that any transaction will occur," Atari warned in a statement.

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