Group Limited, one of the largest Internet companies in the Russian-speaking Internet market, today announces the creation of a partnership around ESforce eSports business with Modern Pick, which will allow Group and Modern Pick to build a well-diversified eSports business, with presence in Russia/CIS as well as Europe, with access to a broader games portfolio and expertise in AAA+ games development, eSports teams, broadcasting, video production, streaming, tournament organization and venues, combined with an extensive set of media and global brand partnerships.
The BoD of Group approved signing of the partnership agreement. Implied valuation of ESforce as part of the transaction is $110mn (including SK Gaming, catering and merchandise businesses, disposed by Group previously for >$10mn, implied overall valuation of all ESforce assets acquired by Group totals $120mn+). Group is to transfer 51% stake of ESforce into Modern Pick. The transaction is anticipated to be completed in the coming months, with ESforce to be deconsolidated from the Group’s financials as of Q2 results reporting on a pro forma basis. In FY 2018, ESforce generated RUB2.7bn in revenues and had an EBITDA of RUB0.7bn.
Following the closure of the deal, Group will work with ESforce on arms-length basis, including around target advertising activity using Group’s services.
Deal structure:
– MRG already holds 3% of Modern Pick
– MRG transfers 51% of ESforce as contribution to Modern Pick at an implied $56mn valuation ($110mn for 100%) with the combined company having a total initial value of $350mn
– The ultimate long term size of MRG’s stake will depend on a number of operational KPIs for the combined company set for 2022 and could increase or decrease from initial level
– MRG will remain 49% shareholder of ESforce post transaction
– Third year ratchet: Group’s share is to be re-valuated depending on 2022 financial performance. In case the combined 2022 revenue is below certain minimum threshold MRG may exit the merged company and get 51% of ESforce shares back. Group also has an option to reverse the deal in case certain fundraising and asset consolidation conditions agreed as part of the Transaction are not met by Modern Pick
We remain committed to games and eSports and see this partnership as adding optionality around new monetization channels for our existing and future game content, potential to operate eSports leagues and generally play a much larger role on the global eSports market, which offers significant growth potential, in our view, having already risen by 75% since 2016 to $865.1mn in 2018 and expected to break $1bn in revenues this year, according to Newzoo. PwC sees the global e-sports market growing at a 2018-22F CAGR of 18%, from $805mn in 2018 to $1,580mn in 2022.
We expect synergies from access to a much broader European sponsorship market with wide opportunities in eSports and media projects as well as from broadening our non-violent games portfolio, attractive for sponsorship. This also means an opportunity for MY.GAMES to receive access to global advertisers and opens up opportunities for cooperation and global expansion with overall diversification of our games and eSports business.
Commenting on the transaction Vladimir Nikolsky, COO (Russia) at Group, said: “We are very pleased to be entering into this new business together with Modern Pick, the strong partner who works in close cooperation with such brands as ZDF, Red Bull, etc. We are pleased with the progress that ESF has made since our acquisition but we see larger opportunities for the business being part of a wider eco-system. This is entirely constant with our strategy of leveraging our dominant position in our home market while also working with partners in some areas. We look forward to working with our talented and energetic partners to further expand ESF’s reach and user offering.”
Commenting on the transaction Mathias Lauda, Vice president at Modern Pick, said: “We are really excited to be able grow the business jointly with Group and gain the ESF distribution expertise and the wider partnership with Group to expand the reach of our world class racing games. There are obvious synergies between Modern Pick with its great partnership network of ZDF and Red Bull amongst others and the ever expanding eSports network of ESF. With the number of racing and arcade genre games continuing to increase interest from the wider auto industry continues to increase both in terms of brand recognition and also as a new avenue for marketing. We look forward to working together in this.”

By George Miller

George Miller started his career in content marketing and has started working as an Editor/Content Manager for our company in 2016. George has acquired many experiences when it comes to interviews and newsworthy content becoming Head of Content in 2017. He is responsible for the news being shared on multiple websites that are part of the European Gaming Media Network.