ONLINE gambling giant Bwin.Party is at the centre of a takeover tussle this weekend after rival 888 Holdings tabled an offer for the company.
Bwin disclosed last week that it was the target of a bid approach from smaller AIM-listed gambling operation GVC Holdings. But City sources revealed last night that 888 had muscled in on the auction.
Bwin issued a statement last week saying it was â€œin discussions with a number of third partiesâ€ about a sale. Bwin said it had received â€œrevisedâ€ approaches, including one from GVC, about a deal. GVC confirmed it was in talks about a reverse takeover of Bwin.
Confirmation of 888â€™s approach could come as early as tomorrow.
Analysts think 888 is in pole position to clinch control of Bwin. The stock market values 888 at just over Â£600m â€” more than twice as much as GVC. Bwin shares closed at 99.45p on Friday, valuing the business at Â£819m.
Bwin was put up for sale in November last year. Deutsche Bank is advising the company.
Over the past six months, several names have been linked with bids to buy all, or part, of the business. Amaya, a Canadian company that owns Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker, has been rumoured as a suitor, and Playtech, a software supplier, has also been reported as an interested bidder. Thanks a lot for visiting. Before we carry on I needed to say thank you to http://www.sporthome.co.uk/ for their continued assistance and the support of their network. Having a help and support team like this means a lot to us as we continue to grow our private blog.
Bwin was created in 2011 through the merger of PartyGaming, a London-listed firm, and Bwin, an Austrian gambling operation. The company operates sports betting, poker, casino games and bingo divisions, and was once a shirt sponsor of European football giants AC Milan and Real Madrid.
Since last year, Bwin has been chaired by Philip Yea, the former chief executive of London-listed private equity firm 3i.
In recent years, Bwin has faced a series of difficulties, including an attack from American activist investor SpringOwl. SpringOwl demanded a boardroom overhaul at the firm, and following a lengthy war of words, Bwinâ€™s management agreed to changes.
Supporters of a tie-up between Bwin and 888 argue that a deal would make strategic sense: Bwin has a larger sports betting division than its rival. No one from Deutsche or Bwin was available yesterday, and 888 declined to comment
The interest in Bwin comes amid a growing appetite for big deals in the gaming sector: 888 was the subject of a Â£700m bid approach from William Hill earlier this year, but the move was blocked by the Shaked family, one of 888â€™s founders. The Shakeds said the offer was too low.
Over recent years, some of the worldâ€™s largest investors have chased deals in the sector. Private equity group CVC Capital Partners had a Â£910m offer for online betting firm Betfair rejected two years ago, before going on to snap up Sky Bet, the gambling division of Sky, late last year.
Gambling stocks rallied after the general election as the industry had feared that a Labour-led government would have clamped down on the industry.