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Dreamworks finalising deal for an acquisition by Japan’s SoftBank

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DreamWorks Animation, the studio behind the “Shrek,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “Madagascar” movies, is in talks to sell the company to Japanese telecommunications firm SoftBank Corp., according to a person  familiar with the talks.

The DreamWorks board held a meeting on Thursday to consider an offer by SoftBank to buy DreamWorks for $32 a share, well above the company’s current share price, which closed at $22.36 on Friday.

A spokeswoman for DreamWorks Animation said she could not comment on “rumors and speculation.”

Katzenberg considered selling the company two years ago but withdrew those plans to focus on building the business into a broad-based studio with interests in television, theme parks, live entertainment and digital media. Last year, it bought YouTube teen network Awesomeness TV for $33 million in cash.

In an interview with The Times this summer, Katzenberg said he was no longer looking to sell the studio but focusing on growing its businesses.

DreamWorks Animation has been attempting to diversify its operations after a string of box-office misfires over the last two years that rattled investors and caused a sharp decline in the company’s share price.

DreamWorks Animation has evolved from a fledgling studio into a $700-million-a-year multimedia powerhouse and one of the industry’s leading animation companies.

But Katzenberg has come under growing pressure to improve DreamWorks’ performance as it faces growing competition from rival studios. The company faced a $15.4 million loss in the second quarter.

SoftBank meanwhile has been looking for acquisitions. Last year, the company made an unsuccessful attempt to buy Universal Music Group from Vivendi. SoftBank recently drew attention for its $20-million investment in Chinese Internet giant Alibaba, which made Softbank, the highest shareholder in Alibaba (32%).

SoftBank owns companies or pieces of them in wireless, broadband, Internet, e-commerce and other tech-economy sectors, including a majority share in U.S. cellphone carrier Sprint.Recently, SoftBank hired Nikesh Arora, a business development hotshot who spent ten years at Google, to engineer new deals for SoftBank.

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