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Japan's SoftBank in Talks to Buy DreamWorks Animation

One report says the deal would value DreamWorks at $3.4 billion.

Asa Mathat

Japan’s SoftBank is in talks to acquire DreamWorks Animation SKG, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

An acquisition of DreamWorks by SoftBank would make the Hollywood studio that created “Shrek” part of a Japanese communications and media company that, under founder and CEO Masayoshi Son, has shown a willingness to take big bets on combining seemingly unrelated businesses.

The acquisition talks were first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, which quoted an unidentified source with knowledge of the deal as saying an acquisition would value DreamWorks at $3.4 billion. The entertainment trade publication said SoftBank had offered $32 per share for DreamWorks.

The stock closed at $22.36 on Friday.

Last week, SoftBank booked a $4.6 billion gain on the share listing of Alibaba Group in New York. SoftBank retains a 32 percent stake in the Chinese e-commerce company, making it Alibaba’s biggest shareholder.

SoftBank has significant stakes in other large listed entities, including U.S. mobile carrier Sprint, Internet portal Yahoo Japan and online games maker GungHo Online Entertainment.

A SoftBank spokesman said the company had no comment on the reported talks with DreamWorks. A representative of DreamWorks could not be immediately reached for comment.

DreamWorks, based in Glendale, Calif., has seen its share price drop 37 percent this year after two consecutive quarterly losses, a string of weak-performing releases, such as “How To Train Your Dragon 2,” and investor concern about the production costs of its movies.

In July, DreamWorks said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating a write-down it took at the end of 2013 on the animated flop “Turbo.”

DreamWorks Animation was spun off from DreamWorks Studios in 2004 as a separate listed company.

The earlier DreamWorks studio had been founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who moved with the spin-off and remains chief executive of the animation company.

(Writing By Kevin Krolicki; Reporting by Paritosh Bansal in New York; Editing by Paul Tait and Alex Richardson)

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