King.com, the London-based maker of Candy Crush Saga, has quietly filed an S-1 document with the Securities and Exchange Commission worth an estimated $5 billion, according to a report in London’s Daily Telegraph, citing an anonymous source.
The public offering of stock promises to be the biggest casual game company deal since EA bought PopCap in 2011 for $1.3 billion.
Few financial details are available, but it was turning over around £300m at the start of this year and has grown rapidly since then. Its games were played an average of 300m times a month in 2011 but that figure now tops 30bn, helped by the success of Candy Crush Saga, which is the most popular game played on Facebook.
Smaller companies with revenues of less than $1 billion annually are allowed to file S-1 papers confidentially with the SEC in the U.S. After a quiet period, the S-1 will eventually be unveiled for public scrutiny. Twitter recently did the same thing.
The fact that King believes it can make a market for its equity among ordinary investors shows the addictive power of “match-three” games. The original match-three variant was PopCap’s Bejeweled. Its format has been copied and, in King’s case, arguably improved by Candy Crush, which features 300 or more increasingly bizarre levels in which players must match three identical fruits on a checkered board in order to make them disappear.
King’s IPO could come just at the right time for G5 Entertainment which is in the middle of preparing a relisting to Nasdaq OMX in Sweden. Attention for casual games will be high and investors will notice the very cheap valuation of G5 Entertainment.