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Ubisoft seeks investors to avoid Vivendi takeover

Publisher has been courting potential partners in Montreal, Toronto and London, would welcome direct investment from Canadian government

Ubisoft is looking to pre-empt a potential hostile takeover from fellow French company Vivendi, and it's turning to its Canadian development hub for assistance. The Globe and Mail reports that Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot has been meeting with a dozen potential investors in Montreal and Toronto this week as part of a plan to keep Vivendi at bay, and met previously with investors in London.

Vivendi has been steadily increasing its stake in Ubisoft since October, and now controls a 15 percent stake in the company. It is also in the process of a hostile takeover of French mobile publisher Gameloft, run by Guillemot's brother and Ubisoft co-founder Michel.

Guillemot and his brothers only own a 9 percent stake in Ubisoft, but have 16 percent of the voting rights. They also have the support of major shareholders Blackrock and Fidelity, which comprise another 15 percent of the company. Guillemot wants the backing of at least half the voting rights to prevent Vivendi from placing its own candidates on the board of directors at the next annual shareholders meeting in September. In his pitch to Canadian investors, Guillemot is focusing on the potential for Vivendi to gut Ubisoft's Canadian operations, studios in Montreal, Toronto, Quebec, and Halifax that account for more than 3,000 jobs.

"We want to increase the number of Canadian shareholders in Ubisoft to have better control over the capital," Guillemot said. "We feel it's a good defence."

Additionally, Guillemot said he would welcome investment from either the Canadian federal or Quebec provincial governments.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau yesterday toured the campus of Ubisoft Montreal with Guillemot. Afterward, he tweeted his thanks for the visit "and discussion on the future of the industry."