By Kane Wu and Heekyong Yang
HONGKONG/SEOUL (Reuters) – Chinese gaming titan Tencent Holdings Ltd <0700.HK> is considering a bid for the holding company that controls South Korean gaming company Nexon <3659.T>, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Tencent is looking to enlist co-investors, the sources said. One of the sources also said private equity firms are studying options for a deal, including taking the listed company private.
Nexon founder Kim Jung-ju plans to sell a controlling 98.64 percent stake in Nexon’s holding firm NXC Corp, held by himself and related parties including his wife, the Korea Economic Daily newspaper reported this month.
The stake is worth between 8 trillion and 10 trillion won ($7.1 billion and $8.9 billion), according to reports from Korea Economic Daily and the Maeil Business Newspaper.
Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley are running the sale, sources told Reuters. The two banks declined to comment.
The Maeil Business Newspaper said Tencent has picked Goldman Sachs as adviser, citing unidentified sources. It added that other potential bidders include KKR & Co Inc, TPG Capital, Carlyle Group and MBK Partners.
NXC and Tencent declined to comment.
Founded in 1994, Nexon has developed more than 80 live games in over 190 countries, including IP-franchise hits such as MapleStory, Dungeon & Fighter, Sudden Attack, and KartRider.
Tencent, the world’s largest gaming company by revenue, owns the exclusive licence to operate Dungeon & Fighter in China.
The social media-to-payments firm, and its gaming peers, faced a crackdown from Chinese authorities, which stopped approving new titles from March amid a regulatory overhaul triggered by growing criticism of video games for being violent and leading to myopia as well as addiction among young users.
The freeze was lifted in December, when Tencent had already lost billions in its market value.
($1 = 1,121.7100 won)
(Reporting by Kane Wu and Julie Zhu in Hong Kong and Heekyong Yang in Seoul; additional reporting by Cate Cadell in Beijing; editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Stephen Coates)