Final Fantasy Maker Jumps on Report It May Be Acquisition Target

(Bloomberg) -- The company behind the popular Final Fantasy series of games surged in Tokyo on Friday following a report it had received interest from potential buyers.

Square Enix Holdings Co. rose 12% on Friday, the most in eight months, after the report from deal news website CTFN which cited two unidentified bankers. A spokeswoman for Square Enix declined to comment on the report.

Shares in Square Enix are trading near the all-time high set last year, giving it a market value of 845 billion yen ($7.8 billion). As well as Final Fantasy, it publishes the Dragon Quest and Kingdom Hearts role-playing series, and owns the Tomb Raider franchise.

"With intellectual property that has remained popular for years and years, Square Enix does have strong branding power," said Shoichi Arisawa, an analyst at Iwai Cosmo Securities Co.

Amid increasing competition for the biggest exclusive properties and a surge in revenue as a result of the pandemic, M&A activity in the videogame sector has been growing. 2020 saw almost $25 billion in deals, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The bulk of that was made up by Microsoft Corp.'s $7.5 billion acquisition of the owner of Bethesda Softworks, the maker of The Elder Scrolls, Doom and Fallout series. Electronic Arts Inc. topped a rival offer from Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. to buy racing game maker Codemasters Group Holdings Plc for $1.2 billion.

"M&A will remain robust after record deal volume -- both number of deals and dollar value -- in 2020, with multiple game makers having cash-rich balance sheets," said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Kanterman, "but they will probably target smaller, private developers as opposed to large listed ones."

It's far from the first time that the Final Fantasy maker was a possible acquisition target. Before its merger with Enix, Microsoft had intended to acquire Square in 1999, but the deal was rejected for being too low.

The report also boosted some other gaming stocks in Tokyo, with Koei Tecmo Holdings Co. rising as much as 2.9%.