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PopCap is possible $1bn acquisition target - report

Update: EA reported as likely potential buyer of Seattle company

Update

Tech Crunch has published a second story which reports that the buyer currently negotiating the PopCap acquisition is Electronic Arts, citing two separate sources for the information.

The acquisition would fit with EA's continuing development of the social and casual side if its business, which has already included the acquisition of Playfish, but would represent a massive and hugely committed financial speculation if the $1 billion price tag is true.

Original story

Reports are circulating that PopCap is in the process of being acquired, with the potential price being flouted at $1 billion.

A news piece on website TechCrunch broke the story, announcing that the buyout was in progress but without any confirmation from either PopCap or the potential buyer.

The potential of a $1 billion price tag was also quoted as being confirmed by "several sources".

Speculation is rife over which company would have the means and inclination to pay such a price for the studio, which has estimated yearly revenues of around $100-$150 million, putting the price at up to ten times that value.

Electronic Arts, Zynga, Tencent and even Google have been touted as possible candidates, all of whom could have the capacity to take PopCap's IPs to broader audiences and all of whom have vested interests in the social and casual markets.

However, PopCap appears to have at least partially denied the rumours, denying that any $1 billion deal is in the works, but not flat out excluding the possibility of an acquisition.

Speaking to VentureBeat about the story via Twitter, Jennifer Kye denied that the details of TechCrunch's story were true, but has since deleted that tweet. Kye is to be begin work at PopCap next week, and contacted her boss to ensure that she would not be affected by any deal. Her future superiors reportedly denied the details of TechCrunch's report.

When contacted again, PopCap's official corporate response was less clear, with representative Garth Chouteau stating: "Per company policy we do not comment on rumour and speculation of this type."

The rumours seem contradictory to PopCap's recent announcement that it would be moving forward the date of an IPO, as the same time as it publicly revealed a deal with Chinese social company RenRen, which would take PopCap's games to an enormous Chinese audience.

"We are very much in the process of preparing a listing. We expect to be ready to be listed as early as November this year," PopCap CEO David Roberts told press. "Whether we go, will depend on the market...we don't want to rush into it."

The existence of that deal would seem to rule a Chinese buyer, other than RenRen, out of the picture, but would also strengthen the potential rewards for an acquisition by a Western company looking to break into that market.

PopCap has been contacted for further comment.

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