Nacon Acquires Australian Developers Big Ant In $54.8 Million Deal

Nacon Acquires Australian Developers Big Ant In $54.8 Million Deal
Image: Kotaku
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French video game publisher Nacon has just announced the acquisition of Big Ant Studios, creators of the Don Bradman Cricket, Cricket 19 and AO Tennis sports games, for a “maximum price of” $54.8 million.

The total acquisition price is a little malleable, according to the official release. In the terms and conditions, Nacon has agreed to pay a net price of 15 million euros net cash and debt when the deal is signed, with another earn out payable after March 31, 2024:

The acquisition of 100% of the share capital and voting rights of Big Ant will have an overall maximum price of 35M€ on the basis of :

– a net price of 15 M€ (net of cash and debt) in cash upon signature; 
– an earn-out payable for 50% in cash and for 50% through the creation of new Nacon shares, based on performance until March 31, 2024.

Financing aside, the deal is probably the most significant and sizeable acquisition of an Australian studio in recent memory. Interestingly, Big Ant is aiming for $9.4 million in operating profit for 2021-22 — notable only because it’s quite rare to see the financials of any Australian game dev studios, given most of them aren’t publicly traded companies.

The terms of the deal say “net of cash and debt”, but Big Ant CEO Ross Symons told Kotaku Australia that the studio “has no debt and significant cash in the bank”. “This will result in a payment well in excess of the 15 million euros,” he said.

Symons added that the deal has come together “in weeks, not months” and was borne out of their partnership with Nacon in developing Tennis World Tour 2 and AO Tennis 2.

“Nacon pitched the acquisition as an extension of that positive approach to partnering that our two companies have enjoyed so far, and that they would support our vision to transition to AAA and become one of the world’s leading sports games developers, all while allowing Big Ant to remain autonomous but being able to lean on the resources that Nacon can provide,” Symons told Kotaku Australia.

The deal will help Big Ant “tackle new sports properties and expand the scope of the licensors that we work with,” according to Symons.

Nacon’s release notes that the company’s 9 development studios publish “AA games”, rather than AAA titles. It’ll be interesting to see a Don Bradman Cricket or an AO Tennis with a vastly bigger budget. One obvious area of expansion for Big Ant would be with their cricket titles: they haven’t to date fully replicated the drafting and franchise elements of the Indian Premier League, and having an expanded budget and support would undoubtedly help in those talks.

Big Ant has released racing, rugby league and AFL games in the past, and it’ll be interesting to see if this deal enables them to venture more into those sports as well.

Comments

  • whoof. Big Ant is privately held, right? Sizable pay day for the founders.

    It genuinely surprises me that Big Ant might clear $10mil in profit next year – particularly given Aussie sporting properties are such a big part of their business and I imagine the market is pretty niche for those… it just surprises me that there’s that much money (let alone profit for the studio) in those games. That’s really interesting.

    Valuation-wise, $50m as the potential total price on a projected $10m in profit (roughly) is only a ~5x EBIT multiple, which is not a crazy valuation at all – in tech-land valuations often go far, far, far higher than that. Especially when the earn out is over 3 years with half of the at-risk value in shares. So it’s actually not a wildly aggressive valuation.

    Exciting thing for an Aussie studio to make that leap, too. Certainly a strong signal to aspiring game entrepreneurs in Australia that a profitable exit and a path towards ‘hitting the big time’ is not a complete folly.

  • Maybe we will get an acceptable cricket/Rugby league game for the first time in over a decade.
    Sorry Alex. But they have been awful.

    • Yeah the games have been average for sure… turns out people see about $50m worth of value and potential in them, though!

      • 50 mill isnt that big in the game where its usually wanting another zero at the end of number, but maybe with some more investment they can get there.

  • The thing they need to do is somehow sell cricket video games to the Indian market and to do that it needs to run on a phone

  • Everyone talking about cricket. I want an AFL game. There hasn’t been a good one all last gen. Probably in over a decade (whenever the last AFL Live was)

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