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Multimedia developer on its Beam-ends

Multimedia developer on its Beam-ends

Speculation is running hot about shuffling, shouldering and handshaking in Australia's software games development and distribution industries, which are currently undergoing significant turmoil and rationalisation.

Recent events have seen one player (Ozisoft) sold to French company Infogrames Entertainment last week and another (Beam International) voluntarily suspend trading of its stock while negotiating the sale of a struggling software games development division.

Meanwhile, a third (Roadshow Interactive) has recently denied rumours that it is getting out of the computer games business altogether.

After announcing last week that it had purchased a 62.5 per cent stake in games distributor Ozisoft, Infogrames, which claims to be Europe's largest games developer, publisher and distributor, is now gunning for local developer Beam. However, industry sources believe Beam is also being courted by other big-name global companies, possibly including Electronic Arts and GT Interactive.

One of Australia's best-known multimedia companies, Beam has reportedly been in trouble for a while, most recently reporting a loss of $2.3 million for the 12 months to the end of 1998 to the Australian Stock Exchange.

Its search for buyers for its games development and publishing section came in the wake of an unsuccessful attempt to secure funding for its intended US expansion from Australian Mezzanine Investments.

But, in a written statement, Beam officials claimed the company is already in "advanced negotiations for the sale of its games and publishing businesses".

Additional equity

"These discussions follow from our previously announced plans to seek additional equity investment in the company, subsequent to the withdrawal of equity funding proposals by Australian Mezzanine in November 1998," commented Beam's chairman, Alfred Milgrom.

It is not known why Australian Mezzanine decided not to go through with the deal (the company officials were not available for comment last week), but the fact that games and contents businesses soak up a lot of money before starting to deliver returns might have a lot to do with the investor's decision.

Melbourne-based Beam will continue to license its animation software, while at the same time focusing on the WWW content production.

"This move will allow the company to concentrate and expand on its initiatives in online activities and 3D animation activities," Milgrom said.

However, only a handful of its current employees will see the process through, as the downfall of Beam's games development arm is likely to cost the jobs of about 75 per cent of the company's 130 staff.

Luckily, many could expect to be picked up by any new owner to work on games currently in development.

With Infogrames claiming to be keen on retaining Ozisoft's good name here in Australia, taking on Beam's development team would add additional local content to its product inventory. It is believed that Infogrames made a firm offer to Beam, but it is still waiting to hear back as discussions with other potential buyers continue.

No Beam shares are expected to be traded until it announces who the eventual buyer of its games development is, but the sale is conditional and can only go ahead upon shareholder approval.

ARN will follow any new developments online (www.arn.idg.com.au).


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