Softbank, the multifaceted Japanese telecommunications and Internet giant, is reportedly heading to Hollywood.
After shelving its bid for T-Mobile last month and stockpiling $71 billion in cash following the IPO of Alibaba (it has a 32 percent stake), Softbank is now eyeing an acquisition of DreamWorks Animation, the film studio helmed by movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and famed for franchises like Shrek and Madagascar.
Though DreamWorks Animation -- which spun off from DreamWorks SKG into a publicly-traded company in 2004 -- is one of the smaller film studios in Hollywood, it could mark a huge opportunity for Softbank.
Rather than expanding the Softbank-owned Sprint mobile network through an acquisition of T-Mobile, chief executive Masayoshi Son “now appears to be focusing more on acquiring content creators” to challenge AT&T and Verizon, reports The Wall Street Journal. Softbank’s stakes in various gaming companies, for instance, have made it the top-grossing mobile-game provider in the world.
A purchase would value DreamWorks Animation at $3.4 billion, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which first reported an emergency meeting held by the studio last Thursday to mull the offer. Given fledgling releases -- and subsequent stock fluctuations -- DreamWorks has long sought a buyer.
Still in early stages, the discussions could also lead to a distribution partnership or an investment deal as opposed to an all-out acquisition, according to the Journal.
While Son will become the first Japanese investor to set his sights on the silver screen in 25 years, according to the Journal, the unusual bid is part of his quest to turn Softbank into the biggest company in the world. Softbank currently counts investments in more than 1,300 companies.
Following recent underperformers like Rise of the Guardians and Turbo, DreamWorks Animation could find in Softbank a valuable portal into the lucrative Asian market.
An acquisition could also bolster Katzenberg’s stated strategy to diversify the studio’s portfolio into television, online video and consumer products.
The deal is allegedly being championed by Google’s former chief business officer, Nikesh Arora, who joined Softbank in July as CEO of Internet and media.
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