Disney Investor Thinks Company Should Buy Game-Maker Activision

(Bloomberg) -- Activision Blizzard Inc.’s declining share price over the past several months has some speculating the video-game company could be a takeover target.

Gerber Kawasaki Inc.’s Nick Licouris thinks Walt Disney Co. should be the buyer. The Santa Monica, California-based investor sees potential benefits between Activision’s growing esports business and Disney’s TV networks. He also sees an opportunity for Disney to leverage its film and TV characters.

“Ideally for an investor you want this to happen now,” Licouris said in an interview. Gerber Kawasaki owns roughly 90,000 shares of Activision, worth about $4.3 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Disney is in the firm’s top three holdings, with a 13F filing listing more than 152,000 shares valued at almost $22 million.

Disney’s history in the video-game business isn’t great. The company acquired game makers such as Playdom and Club Penguin, bought game studios and launched a gaming platform called Infinity. But after running up hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, the company shifted to letting companies like Electronic Arts Inc. make games based on its characters for a fee.

“We’ve just decided that the best place for us to be in that space is licensing and not publishing,” Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said on an investor call in February.

Neither Disney nor Activision immediately responded to requests for comment.

Licouris said the upside may be too good to overlook. The global gaming market is projected to generate $152.1 billion in revenue this year, with 45% coming from mobile, according to a 2019 Newzoo global games report.

Esports on TV

Disney already televises Activision’s Overwatch League under a multiyear deal, and that could lead to closer ties. Disney’s knack for storytelling presents ample opportunities, especially after Activision’s acquisition of Candy Crush-maker King Digital Entertainment in 2016, Licouris said.

A deal wouldn’t be cheap. Activision’s market value is almost $37 billion, even after a 43% drop in the stock since its October 2018 high. The shares were up 0.8% to $47.86 Tuesday in New York. Disney was up 0.6%.

Activision has also been highlighted as a possible asset for Apple Inc. given that it would offer “leverage to an industry rapidly transitioning to mobile,” JPMorgan told clients in a research note earlier this year.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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