Namco Bandai has bought a 34% stake in the distribution business of Atari's parent company, Infogrames. The two companies are calling the deal a “strategic partnership”, but it could be the first step towards a buyout of Infogrames by the Asian publisher.
The two companies state that under the terms of the deal, “Infogrames has agreed to regroup its distribution operations into a standalone entity with exclusive physical packaged-goods distribution rights for video games produced by Namco Bandai and Infogrames within Infogrames’ European and Asian territories.”
The key point in the announcement, however, is the fact that until June 2012 Infogrames will retain a put option ("If anybody else comes in for us, we want you to buy the rest of our shares now!") to sell the remaining 66% of the newly-formed company to Namco Bandai.
Similarly, Namco Bandai will have a call option ("If anybody else comes in for you, we want to buy the rest of your shares now!") in the same period. Looks like decent groundwork of an all-out sale to us.
The companies have agreed that, for the purpose of the put and call options, the value of the newly-formed entity is between €60 million (£48 million) and €190 million (£152.6 million).
Infogrames' development and publishing business will be unaffected, meaning it should be business as usual at Atari.
The companies said they will both benefit from the expanded distribution network.
Infogrames has distributed Namco Bandai titles such as the Naruto games through Atari in Europe in the past. The Asian company frequently calls on other publishers to deal with its titles over here and will be strengthened as a result of the Infogrames deal.