'Candy Crush Saga' maker plans IPO

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Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 12:00 am

The game maker King has conquered the mobile gaming world from its home base in London. Now, King, the company that created “Candy Crush Saga,” has its eyes set on becoming a top technology initial public offering — across the Atlantic Ocean.

The company has filed for a public offering in the United States, according to people briefed on the matter, in what promises to be one of the biggest debuts by a gaming company in over a year. It has also retained Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse and JPMorgan Chase to lead the offering, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A spokeswoman for King declined to comment.

King joins the growing list of technology companies seeking to go public, in what investors and dealmakers hope will signal a revival amid a slump in the sector. That potential wave is being led by Twitter, whose impending stock sale is one of the most highly anticipated since that of Facebook last year.

An offering by King, at what some analysts estimate will be a multibillion-dollar valuation, would be the latest triumph for the company. “Candy Crush Saga,” its signature app, has become one of the most popular apps on Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems. It is also the highest-grossing game on both operating systems, according to data firms like App Annie.

King may still have to overcome skepticism about the last gaming company to make a highly public offering, Zynga. After its much-ballyhooed market debut in December 2011, Zynga has struggled amid declining popularity, employee layoffs and costly missteps like the nearly $200 million purchase of OMGPOP, a game maker that the company has since shut down.

King is hoping to avoid that fate, with an expected emphasis on its strength in mobile devices. Founded by a group of entrepreneurs in 2003, the company had grown largely through games that ran on its website. It now offers 150 games in 14 languages on its site, Facebook and mobile devices. It maintains offices in five cities aside from London, including San Francisco and Barcelona.

The company says that it has been profitable since 2005, and claims more than 225 million monthly active users.

But it was the introduction last year of “Candy Crush Saga,” a puzzle game in which users try to clear vibrantly hued candy shapes, that helped the company reach new heights of prominence and profitability.

The game itself is free to download, and many users will pay nothing. But the company dangles the prospect of extra lives or bonuses to help clear levels through in-game purchases that start at about 99 cents. Users can also take to Facebook to ask for help from their friends.

The company's next big hit appears to be “Pet Rescue Saga,” which currently ranks eighth among Apple's top-grossing apps. “Candy Crush Saga” is ranked first.

Little information is publicly available about King, which is privately held. Like Twitter, the company has filed its public offering materials confidentially, taking advantage of the Jumpstart Our Business Start-Ups Act, the people briefed on the filing said. Passed last year, the law, known as the JOBS Act, allows companies with less than $1 billion in revenue to begin the listing process in secret.

Analysts estimate that King's business model has worked extremely well so far. The consulting firm Think Gaming estimates that “Candy Crush Saga” alone brings in $850,016 in daily revenue for King — or about $310 million a year.

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