WASHINGTON: US toymaker Hasbro announced Thursday (Aug 22) that it is acquiring studio Entertainment One, which owns popular cartoon series Peppa Pig among other children's content, for approximately US$4 billion.
Under the all-cash transaction, Entertainment One shareholders will receive £5.6 (US$6.86) per share, according to a statement from Hasbro.
In addition to Peppa Pig, the popular swine with a British accent who loves jumping in muddy puddles, the purchase includes the successful children's cartoon PJ Masks, about a trio of young friends who become superheroes at night.
"The acquisition of highly profitable and merchandisable preschool brands is a strategic growth opportunity for Hasbro," the company said.
Peppa Pig has extended itself to new profit streams that continue its success, it added.
Shares of Entertainment One rose nearly 30 per cent on Friday, a day after news of the offer broke.
Meanwhile PJ Masks growth outlook "is supported by new formats, its current rollout in China, the launch of new seasons in multiple regions, a live touring event and new toy lines."
Hasbro is additionally banking on the success of the launch of yet another Entertainment One character, Ricky Zoom, a little red rescue bike, which it calls a "unique storyline with highly merchandisable content."
The cartoon will launch on Sep 9 on US children's network Nickelodeon, and in other major markets.
Hasbro plans for the acquisition to save it US$130 million through in-sourcing and other synergies by the year 2022.
Three quarters of the acquisition will be carried out with the proceeds of debt financing thanks to a loan of just under a year from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Approximately US$1billion-US$1.25 billion will be financed in cash.
Hasbro said it is committed to doing everything within its power to maintain an investment grade rating.
The toymaker is not the first company to consider a bid for Entertainment One.
In 2016, British broadcaster ITV axed its informal £1-billion bid for the London-listed company, which had unanimously rejected the offer as too low.
But the Hasbro acquisition will likely benefit both companies, said Russ Mold, an analyst at investment platform AJ Bell.
"Hasbro knows how to best exploit a brand by selling any type of product and is the perfect owner for Entertainment One, which has a large portfolio of popular brands for children," he said.
The move also illustrates the rising interest in acquiring British companies that have become all the more attractive as the pound weakens amid fears about Brexit.
Entertainment One shares surged Friday on the London Stock Exchange, jumping 29.7 per cent to £5.75 around 0850 GMT.
The increase in share price above that proposed by Hasbro suggests that investors may be waiting for a competing bid.
"It would not be surprising to see Amazon or Netflix set their sights" on Entertainment One given its catalogue, said Mold.
But he added that "the most logical would be a counter-offer from Disney that has a share in the brand PJ Masks."