May 28, 2008, 12:00 AM

RealNetworks plans to spin off casual games business and eyes IPO

RealNetworks has revealed a plan to separate its global casual games business into an independent company and distribute shares of the new company to its shareholders. The company says it might precede the spin-off with an initial public stock offering.

RealNetworks Inc. has announced a plan to separate its global casual games business into an independent company and distribute shares of the new company to its shareholders. The company says it might precede the spin-off with an initial public offering and sale of up to 20% of the new games company’s shares.

RealNetworks’ casual games business includes development, publishing, licensing, distribution and retail. Games and puzzles are played on personal computers, mobile devices and home consoles and are sold online at RealArcade.com. RealNetworks is No. 89 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

In the first quarter of 2008, RealNetworks’ games business revenue rose 33%, or $7.9 million, from $23.9 million in the first quarter of 2007, to $31.8 million, the company says. For 2007, games revenue was $108.5 million, up 26%, compared with $86.2 million in 2006.

“For investors, we anticipate that the spin-off will create a pure-play casual games business with increased transparency, and that it will result in lower complexity in understanding and tracking RealNetworks’ performance” says Michael Eggers, senior vice president and chief financial officer. “We also think that the new structure will provide current and potential shareholders with two attractive investment options that may be more closely aligned with their various investment objectives.”

RealNetworks expects that either a spin-off or an IPO and subsequent spin-off will be tax-free to its shareholders.

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