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Video Game Maker In Surprise $2 Billion Bid For Rival

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Electronic Arts, the video gaming giant, made an unsolicited $2 billion bid on Sunday for rival Take-Two Interactive, publisher of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, a deal that would further a wave of consolidation in the rapidly growing industry.

Electronic Arts, which publishes hit games like the Madden N.F.L. and Need for Speed series, offered to pay $26 a share for Take-Two, a 50 percent premium over its share price of $17.36 on Friday. The offer was made publicly after a series of private offers to Take-Two were rejected by its board.

Electronic Arts approached Take Two with a $26-a-share offer on Feb. 19, up from $25 share it initially offered on Feb. 15.

The timing of the bid appears to be an attempt to acquire Take-Two before it releases what is widely expected to be the top-selling game of 2008, the fourth installment of the crime thriller Grand Theft Auto. The Grand Theft Auto franchise, Take-Two's crown jewel, has sold more than 60 million copies since Grand Theft Auto III took the game industry by storm in 2001.

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