Starbreeze Raided on Insider Trading Allegations


#1

Swedish authorities raided the corporate headquarters of System Shock 3 publisher Starbreeze, Gamasutra reports, on allegations of insider trading. A computer was taken and one person was detained.

This comes after the Starbreeze CEO stepped down after the company announced a restructuring following disappointing sales numbers.

Sweet merciful Buddha on a pine cone, can the folks at OtherSide just not catch a break?


#2

It’s not super clear how what games at Starbreeze this will affect (and how) but it definitely can’t be good news. I wonder if we’ll be seeing another Kickstarter soon.


#3

From what I understand, it’s not the company that’s charged with insider trading, but just that one person working for them. Of course, getting your workday interrupted like that and potentially losing an employee is not exactly the best thing to happen.


#4

Fair distinction.

I was paraphrasing the initial stories about this, but I agree it’s appropriate to distinguish between an allegation against an individual and suggesting there’s some systemic corruption.

I hope Starbreeze is able to come out of this and return to success.


#5

Today features a Eurogamer story from Wesley Yin-Poole regarding Starbreeze’s situation. It seems pretty dire.

Firstly, of course, I wish the best for the staff at Starbreeze… but this also hits closer to home. With poor sales and high debt, and its own staff to pay, it’s hard to see how Starbreeze is able to fund any future development on System Shock 3.

I appreciate that there’s probably not much that OSE can or would want to say about this. But I’ll also admit that some reassurance that the Austin team will get to properly finish SS3 would be great.


#6

Correct, can’t say much at this point. We’re figuring things out on the business side–this kind of stuff creates more work for me and Paul, the dev team can keep working away on the game. We really love the Starbreeze folks we’ve been working with and hope they find a path through this. They are good people and this industry needs good people. On top of that, they have been a great partner. Since they have developed games themselves, they understand the challenges of game development and that’s really refreshing.

All of that said, OtherSide is still committed to making System Shock 3. We haven’t skipped a beat on the dev work. Warren has built a great team down in Austin and we’ve done a lot of work on the game already. Recent internal builds have come far enough along to see the system-shock-ness come through as well as getting to play around with some of the new stuff that Warren and team are cooking up. As a huge fan of the series and the Looking Glass style of games, I’m really excited for it. Of course, I’m biased, so take that last bit of sentiment for what it’s worth :slight_smile:


#7

Very much appreciated, Walter. Best of luck to everyone.


#8

A few financials:

2017 annual report:
https://www.starbreeze.com/sbz-media/2018/05/Starbreeze-Annual-Report-2017.pdf

SEK are converted to US$ at a rate of about 10 to 1.

p.6

  • Loss before tax ~ 17 million US$, which probably includes a significant amount of depreciation.
  • EBITDA ~ -5 million US$, operating cashflow ~ -2 million US$, so this is not an accountants problem — they are losing actual money.
  • Sales went up compared to 2016 by a few million $, but the workforce expanded, too, and sales per employee dropped from over 200,000 US$ to about 130,000.
  • Two titles (PAYDAY and Dead by Daylight) account for about 90% of revenues.

p.44

  • They hired a huge amount of people in 2017 (up from 212 in 2016 to 650 at year-end 2017). -It is stated elsewhere that the increase is in large part due to the acquisition of Indian production company Dhruva, so the actual cost impact may be less than it appears from the raw numbers-

p.61

  • About one third of reported total revenues is “capitalized development costs.” So that’s not real cash coming in, instead they treat (part of) their development expenses as an asset in expectation of future revenues that might flow from that development.
  • That percentage was about the same in 2015 and 2016, but much lower in 2014.
  • Operating costs in 2017 were ~ 74 million US$, that number was ~ 13 million in 2015.

p.62

  • They received a huge cash inflow in 2017 (~ +85 million US$). As far as I can see, that was before going public in October 2017, so that must have been debt or hybrid instruments. Despite going public in 2017, they burned two thirds of their liquid cash (“Cash and cash equivalents”) in that year, but still had a fair amount of cash left in the bank.

p.66

  • The only significant impairment in 2017 was -2 million US$ on a game called RAID.

So it seems what happened is that they invested heavily in new development in 2017, partly financed by going public in October of that year, but probably also with new debt incurred in 2016. For the new development investments, they massively increased their headcount.

This looks risky to me, although generally, the company was in no bad shape at the end of 2017. But the investments have to pay off soon.

2018 interim statements (latest available - Q3):
https://www.starbreeze.com/sbz-media/2018/05/Starbreeze-Interim-Report-Q1-2018.pdf

Q1:

  • It seems they had a substantive problem with cash flow, and could only meet their cash needs by issuing 20 million new shares. The company still incurred a (small) loss (pp.19-20).
  • They appear to have been compelled to sell their main cash cow Dead by Daylight, which accounts for two thirds of all net sales (p.10).

Q2:
https://www.starbreeze.com/sbz-media/2018/08/Starbreeze-Interim-Report-Q2-2018.pdf

  • Return to profitability and positive cash flow, but probably only due to the one-time effect of the fire sale of Dead by Daylight publishing rights (revealed as 16 million US$ or ~ 160 million SEK, p.5)
  • Without the 16 million from the DbyD sale, they would still have burned loads of cash in that quarter.
  • SS3 mentioned on p.3 as a ‘major publishing project’ in the pipeline.
  • Interestingly, Acer agreed to extend a $7million convertible bond by one year at the same conditions, indicating they didn’t see the imminent collapse coming (p.5).

Q3:
https://www.starbreeze.com/sbz-media/2018/11/Starbreeze-Interim-report-Q3-2018.pdf

  • After selling the main cash cow (two thirds of sales), the company had a huge hole on the revenue side, again profit and cash negative, p.6.
  • CFO leaves, p.5.
  • Company wants to replace bank loans by secured note (unclear by what it would be secured), p. 5.
  • Company launches Overkill The Walking Dead, but the game obviously couldn’t replace Dead by Daylight.

The shareprice (SE0007158928) went down 90% over the next few months (Nov 2018 - Jan 2019).

5 Dec 2018: Starbreeze offices raided by law enforcement, CEO is fired, refuses to comment on ongoing criminal investigation.
https://www.reddit.com/r/paydaytheheist/comments/a3dy8d/comment_from_bo_andersson_former_ceo_of/

21 Dec 2018: Court order puts Starbreeze into administration, creditor committee established.
https://www.starbreeze.com/2018/12/the-district-court-decided-on-continued-reconstruction-and-to-appoint-a-creditor-committee/


#9

It’s amazing how siimilar the Eurogamer’s account of Overkill’s The Walking Dead is to what happened with Underworld Ascendant. Same sh*t.


#10

“Starbreeze’s reconstruction means it can cease making payments to contractors for the time being”

So they don’t have to honor their $10m SS3 deal?

https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2019-01-19-its-not-looking-good-for-overkills-the-walking-dead-on-console


#11

Starbreeze shares up 80% in two days, probably due to announcement of development of new PayDay mobile game.


#12

Sure would be nice if that translates into a revived studio.

Under better management.


#13

…a phrase that has more than one particular use… :blush:


#14

Year-end financial report to be published on 20 February. Then we’ll know more.

https://www.starbreeze.com/investor-relations/financial-calendar/