New owners for online gambling giant?

News on 8 Oct 2016

Late Friday was an exciting time in the UK and Canada as rumours surged that the original owners of Pokerstars, the Scheinberg family, were interested in re-acquiring the company – now a subsidiary of the Amaya online gambling group.

That was followed by reports that GVC Holdings, William Hill and other unidentified companies were about to make a bid for Amaya, and that beleaguered former Amaya CEO David Baazov had backed away from his plan to acquire his former company in partnership with private investors.

As speculation mounted late Friday, the Reuters news agency issued a report that William Hill and Amaya had confirmed in a joint statement that they were in talks to combine in an all-share ‘merger of equals’ that is “consistent with the strategic objectives” of both companies.”

The two companies said the merger would form a “clear international leader” in online gaming.

Two unidentified sources told the news agency that Amaya had received “strong buy-out interest” from unidentified private equity firms.

The same sources revealed that Baazov, subject of an insider trading investigation from Quebec’s securities regulator, had abandoned his non-binding plans to bid for Amaya after it transpired that
external bids for the group were above his planned offer price of Cdn$21 per share.

GVC did not respond to enquiries from Reuters regarding the speculation that it had expressed an interest in Amaya.

Amaya’s stock jumped on the Reuters report and trading was halted within minutes, at Cdn$23.41, up 9.1 percent on the day in Toronto – the highest level in about 11 months. The company had a market capitalisation of about Cdn$3.1 billion before the rally.

Our readers will recall that Amaya paid $4.9 billion to acquire the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker brands in the Oldford-Rational Group in 2014. Since then Amaya has made a number of acquisition and grown to one of the strongest brands in the business.

The Amaya – William Hill statement emphasised that the parties are still in talks and there is no guarantee that final agreement will be achieved…a common cautionary statement used by companies in negotiations such as this.

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