Tencent has been rumored to be close to a deal to buy the shares from SoftBank for the past month or so, and today it confirmed that it is acquiring 84 percent of Supercell . The remaining shares will continue to be held by Supercell’s staff, while SoftBank is parting with all of its stake. The transaction values Supercell at around $10.2 billion.
SoftBank bought a majority share in six-year-old Supercell back in 2013, when it teamed up with GungHo — one of its portfolio companies — to buy 51 percent of the firm for just over $1.5 billion. It increased its holding to 73 percent one year ago, but, despite a sizable return on its original outlay, it is moving on from as part of a series of high-profile divestments. SoftBank has also cashed out most of its GungHo shares, while it is selling $7.9 billion in Alibaba shares — its first trade of that stock ever — to cut its debt, which was as high as 11.9 trillion yen ($107 billion) at the end of March.
The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of this year. Tencent pledged to continue the same hands-off approach that Supercell had enjoyed under the ownership of SoftBank.
“Supercell will retain its independent operations, the headquarters will remain in Helsinki, Finland and its existing team will continue to run all operations of the Company,” Tencent said in a statement.
The company added that every employee remains a shareholder, and will be permitted to sell their vested shares to Tencent every year in order to “focus on continued success… and enhance this commitment.”
Masayoshi Son, SoftBank chairman and CEO, paid tribute to Supercell’s team and leadership, and explained that the divestment is part of a new strategy for his firm.
Over the life of our investment, Supercell has operated as an independent company, and its unique culture of independent teams has proven itself repeatedly. I have great respect for Tencent and its leadership in games, and believe that with its commitment to respect Supercell’s independence, Tencent represents the ideal partner to take Supercell’s business to the next level.
“Supercell is known for its creativity, focus on player experience, and unique culture, which have enabled it to create innovative mobile games that are wildly popular globally. Tencent is dedicated to building long-term strategic partnerships with leading game companies,” Martin Lau, President of Tencent, said in a statement.
“We are excited that Supercell is joining our global network of game partners, and will preserve their players around the world. It is important to us that Supercell stays true to its roots by sustaining its unique culture, continuing to be headquartered in Finland, and representing its home proudly,” Lau added.
The acquisition of Supercell is a major coup for Tencent, which is a mobile behemoth in its own right. Tencent owns all of Riot Games, the studio behind League Of Legends, and it has investments in a bunch of game makers that include Epic Games and Activision Blizzard. Content aside, it is also in a strong position as a distributor via QQ and WeChat, its two blockbuster messaging services. As of the end of 2015, QQ had 853 million active users while WeChat had 697 million, according to Tencent’s data.
Earlier this year, Supercell said its four titles — Clash Of Clans, Boom Beach, Hay Day and Clash Royale — had reached over 100 million cumulative players each day. Those games helped the firm to a pre-tax profit of €838 million (approximately $960 million), up some 60 percent year-on-year despite revenue growth slowing during the same period.
Note: Article updated to correct that Supercell is a Finnish company