On Tuesday April 17th, THQ (THQI) shares dipped 2 cents to close out the day at $0.45. Under normal circumstances, such a small amount would seem insignificant for any other game publisher. For THQ, it’s 4% of the company’s worth.
“THQ wont be around in six months” was a remark made (and has since been retracted) by Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick a few weeks ago. And while it likely complicated any chances of a Take-Two buyout — considering that such a move would raise a few eyebrows at the SEC after the statement was made public — Zelnick’s opinion isn’t too far outside the realm of reality.
As of 10pm EST on April 17th, THQ’s market cap was sitting at 30.79 million dollars. This means that at very that moment one could potentially purchase the entire company (assets and all) for around the same money that the New York Yankees are going to pay Alex Rodriguez for the 2012 baseball season. However in doing so, any potential buyer would also inherit the company’s debt which currently sits at over 140 million dollars.
With a major release like Darksiders II just around the corner and extensive licensing deals with both World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), 30 million dollars surely seems like a steal, right? Not so fast. Although the Darksiders series has its fans (and potential new ones) interested in this summer’s sequel, I can’t think of any situation where it would be worth taking a chance on such a large debt.
In a press release sent out this morning where THQ outlines how it exceeded prior quarterly expectations, the company makes mention that it “expects to utilize a substantial portion of its cash and cash equivalents as well as its credit facility ($50 million) as it launches its slate for the 2013 fiscal year, beginning with Darksiders II.”
Unfortunately (and to the dismay of potential buyers), when looking at these kinds of licensing deals the terms and conditions — besides the length of time they’re valid for — are rarely, if ever disclosed. Other than THQ’s top the brass or their licensing partners, no one knows how much money is going to the publisher or the licensor and because of that it’s hard to determine the profitability of those existing agreements from the outside looking in.
If you’re a company like EA (or any company with cash to burn for that matter) and you’ve already missed out on locking down licenses for UFC or even WWE, do you buy THQ and hope to iron out the existing terms of said agreements? Then on the other hand, do you sit and wait until THQ inevitably runs out of cash and burns itself out in hopes that you can renegotiate with those licensors on more favorable terms?
I’m sure that these are likely the $30 — well really $140 — million dollar questions a few companies are asking themselves right now. It’s going to be an interesting Q2… unless of course you own shares in THQ.
Note: In the time between when this post was written and published, THQ released a statement outlining the company’s most recent quarter where it highlights some positive news from higher than expected sales and shipment numbers. Also outlined in that report were plans to utilize it’s $50 million dollar credit facility in preparation of upcoming game launches. At the time that this article published, THQI was up 30 perecent at $0.58 but down from it’s 44 percent pre-market value and falling.