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Eidos clams as Codemasters denies intention to sell

Codemasters staunchly denies any intention to succumb to Ubisoft interest as Eidos Interactive refuses to comment on speculation that the French publisher is on the verge of forcing an acquisition.

Codemasters today claimed that reports saying Ubisoft was in the closing stages of acquiring the McRae publisher were false.

"As a thriving and successful privately-owned games publisher, we receive a lot of attention from other parties," said senior UK spokesperson, Max Everingham. "But we are not for sale and the Ubisoft rumour is exactly that, and no more."

Following news that Ubisoft was about to complete a full acquisition of Eidos yesterday, several reports appeared saying EA was in fact the most likely to buy the ailing British independent, and that Codemasters was the true focus of the French publisher's affections.

Elsewhere, Eidos has issued a strict "no comment" today in the face of rising pressure regarding a strongly mooted Ubisoft buyout, refusing journalists access to board members.

The publisher issued a statement to the City last week saying it was in "preliminary discussions with a small number of parties in relation to possible business combinations."

An Eidos spokesperson this morning refused to be drawn on specifics.

According to sources close to the company, Ubisoft has been in intense meetings with Eidos in the last week, in an apparent effort to resolve a buyout before the submission of Eidos's full fiscal figures in September. In its statement last week, Eidos said that it did not "expect to be in a position to make a further announcement ahead of the Company's full year results."

Ubisoft has been in discussions with Eidos pertaining to a buyout for several years, first confirming its interest in the Lara Croft owner at E3 in 2002.

Speculation surrounding the news escalated yesterday, with some reports claiming that multi-national monster EA has made a cash bid for the publisher in the region of $300 million merely weeks after buying developer Criterion for $48 million, despite assurances from CEO Larry Probst at E3 in May that EA would take something of a back seat in terms of aggression in the coming years.

"We want to continue to drive market share - we think that's one of the ways we can grow the company," Probst said at the time. "And acquisitions over the next three to five years are probably likely to occur. I'm not sure that it's going to be us acquiring other companies."

Ubisoft and EA remained unavailable for comment today.

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