Game play for Peacock Equity

GE-NBC Uni fund takes Bigpoint stake, eyes growth beyond Europe

GE and NBC Universal's Peacock Equity Fund, together with European private-equity group GMT Communications Partners, have agreed to a €70 million ($110 million) majority buyout of Bigpoint, a European provider of free browser-based multiplayer online games.

The company generates revenue from in-game virtual item purchases and advertising sales and is set to expand beyond Europe, where it is a leader.

The deal, expected to close within two months, is Peacock's biggest investment to date. It and GMT are believed to each get a 35% stake in Bigpoint. Aurelia Private Equity, European Founders Fund and United Internet Beteiligungen are selling their stakes in the gaming firm.

The new owners plan to expand into North America and Asia. To that end, NBC Uni has agreed to work with Bigpoint in North America on a series of game titles to be featured on its Sci Fi Channel and USA Network Web sites.

"The gaming space is a key strategic focus area for Peacock Equity," said Tom Byrne, Peacock's managing director and group head.

Bigpoint founder and CEO Heiko Hubertz said the influx of people to online communities has meant much growth over the past five years, and the new ownership will allow the firm to further capitalize on this trend.

Peacock is a joint venture of GE Commercial Finance's Media, Communications & Entertainment business and NBC Uni. (partialdiff)