Japanese conglomerate SoftBank is in talks to acquire DreamWorks Animation in a deal that would value the company at $3.4 billion, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
DWA founder and CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg would sign a five-year contract to remain with the company, according to the source, who says the DWA board held an emergency meeting Thursday to consider the offer. SoftBank is said to have offered $32 a share. DWA stock closed at $22 per share on Friday.
A DWA spokesperson said, “We don’t comment on rumors and speculation.”
Former Google executive Nikesh Arora, who joined SoftBank in July, is said to have been a liaison between DWA and his new firm. Arora is the head of a newly formed unit, SoftBank Internet and Media Inc.
Katzenberg has long sought a buyer for his company, which began as the animation division of DreamWorks Studios and was spun off as a public company in 2004. DWA currently releases its movies through 20th Century Fox.
DWA has been on a roller-coaster ride in the stock market as it moves from one release to the next. The issue in a prospective sale has always been valuation. The company’s 2014 releases include the underperforming Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which grossed $273 million worldwide, and the more successful How to Train Your Dragon 2, which pulled in $611 million this summer.
SoftBank has been in the news lately because of its $20 million investment in Chinese Internet giant Alibaba, a stake now worth a minimum of $60 billion. The sprawling company is considered undervalued and on Sept. 25, Jefferies Group LLC rated SoftBank as “a compelling buy opportunity.”
DWA is represented by the law firms Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Munger, Tolles & Olson.