TOKYO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Japan’s SoftBank Corp is in talks to acquire DreamWorks Animation SKG, the Hollywood studio behind the “Shrek” and “Madagascar” movie hits, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
An acquisition of DreamWorks by SoftBank would make it part of a cash-rich Japanese communications and media company that, under founder and chief executive Masayoshi Son, has shown a willingness to take big bets on combining disparate businesses.
The talks were first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, which quoted an unidentified source as saying a buyout would value DreamWorks at $3.4 billion.
The entertainment trade publication said SoftBank had offered $32 per share for DreamWorks, a substantial premium to the stock’s Friday closing price of $22.36.
Buying DreamWorks, which is headed by veteran Hollywood producer and film executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, would make SoftBank the second Japanese technology company to buy a Hollywood studio, following Sony Corp, which bought Columbia Pictures in 1989.
SoftBank has recently cashed in on a share of its investment in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and dropped its pursuit of mobile carrier T-Mobile US in the face of opposition from anti-trust regulators in the United States.
Last week, SoftBank booked a $4.6 billion gain on the share listing of Alibaba Group in New York. SoftBank retains a 32 per cent stake, making it Alibaba’s biggest shareholder.
SoftBank has significant stakes in other large listed entities, including US mobile carrier Sprint, through which it had pursued a deal for T-Mobile, 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.
In July, SoftBank hired former Google executive Nikesh Arora to run a newly created unit called SoftBank Internet and Media, reporting directly to Son, in a move that stoked speculation the telecommunications company could be considering a move to acquire content production assets.
SoftBank held the equivalent of more than $17 billion in cash and equivalents as of the end of June, its most recent reported quarter.