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Espial to Buy U.K. TV Browser Developer ANT for $8 Million

Espial Group, a Canadian supplier of IPTV software and solutions, announced plans to acquire U.K.-based ANT, which sells Web-based user interface software for television, in a deal worth about $8 million.

Espial has offered to acquire all outstanding shares of ANT for £0.205 per share, valued at approximately £5 million (or $8 million at current exchange rates).

Cambridge, U.K.-based ANT provides IP, hybrid and connected TV products and services, including HMTL5-based user interface software, to TV manufacturers, set-top box vendors, broadcasters and service providers worldwide.

According to ANT’s Sept. 13 letter to shareholders, its partner Cisco Systems has begun deploying set-top boxes with the ANT Galio browser and application platform for a “significant” North American cable TV customers in conjunction with Cisco’s Videoscape Voyager Vantage solution.

"The acquisition of ANT provides Espial with the increased scale, resources and depth of experience to extend our HTML5 market leadership,” Espial CEO Jaison Dolvane said in a statement.

Dolvane added, "Multiscreen video services on set-top boxes, smart TVs, tablets, PCs and smartphones are quickly becoming the new expectation for today's consumers. Delivering a superior user experience across these devices is a critical element to the success of TV service providers."

Espial, based in Ottawa, Ontario, has 90 employees, while ANT has 40. Asked whether Espial will be retaining all of ANT’s employees, Espial director of marketing Kirk Edwardson said in an email, “We’re really looking forward to having the ANT team join us to deepen and strengthen our HTML5 expertise.”

The companies expect the deal to close in the first quarter of 2013 pending shareholder and regulatory approvals. ANT said its board of directors has approved the deal and has recommended that the company’s shareholders accept the offer. According to Espial, it has already received support for the acquisition from shareholders owning 47% of ANT's outstanding shares.

Espial sells digital TV and IPTV software and solutions to cable and telecommunications operators as well as consumer electronics manufacturers. It claims more than 10 million licenses of its software are in use across the world.

Customers of ANT’s Galio Suite -- comprising a browser, client and applications stack -- include ADB, Amino, Bouygues Telecom, Cisco Systems, Chunghwa Telecom, Coship, HwaCom, France Telecom, Humax, Pirelli, Sagemcom, Samsung, Technicolor, Telecom Italia and YouSee.

For the nine months ended Sept. 30, Espial -- which is publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange -- reported revenue of $10.6 million and a net loss of $1.4 million.

ANT reported revenue of £2.47 million (about $4 million) for the first six months of 2012, up 15% from the same period in 2011. The company posted a net loss of £440,000 ($706,000) versus a net loss of £280,000 in the year-earlier period.