Bwin.party has made a return to profit in the first half of the year as the battle to buy the online gambling company intensified with its two rival suitors announcing results.
The PartyPoker owner said yesterday that it had made a pre-tax profit of â‚¬2.9 million in the six months to the end of June compared with a â‚¬11.4 million loss in the same period last year, leading Norbert Teufelberger, the Bwin chief executive, to declare himself â€œconfident about the full-year outlookâ€.
Mr Teufelbergerâ€™s optimism comes as an increasingly competitive battle to buy the company reaches its endgame, with 888 and GVC both bidding for the business amid a wave of gambling industry consolidation.
The Bwin board has given 888 unanimous approval for its Â£900 million offer but 888 yesterday revealed that its first-half profits had fallen 41 per cent to $20 million. The dip did little to dent the companyâ€™s confidence as it confirmed there would be no change in its dividend for the period.
Brian Mattingley, the executive chairman of 888, said that the business would meet its â€œfull-year expectationsâ€ and that the company was enjoying â€œstrong operational momentumâ€, adding: â€œWe are well positioned to deliver long-term sustainable growth and look forward with confidence as we continue to develop the business.â€
Equally confident remarks came from GVC, the owner of CasinoClub and Sportingbet, despite its interim profits fall, which at â‚¬17.1 million were down by nearly â‚¬1 million on the year.
Kenneth Alexander, the GVC chief executive, hailed the businessesâ€™ strong financial performance andsaid that he was optimistic about the outlook for the rest of the year as he made clear that he would be back soon with a new offer for Bwin.
â€œGVC will play an important role in the continuing consolidation of the online gaming sector,â€ he said. â€œWe expect to update the market soon about our discussions with Bwin.party,â€ he added.
â€œAfter experiencing softening in the Greek market following the well-publicised economic problems, GVC is encouraged by signs of greater customer activity,â€ Mr Alexander said. â€œGVC remains confident on the future prospects of the Greek market, which will continue to be important for the group. Current trading as a whole remains strong, even with the absence of the World Cup this year.â€ Bwin opened the door to a new offer on Thursday from GVC, despite its approval of the 888 bid, saying that it had resolved some issues with its bid and wanted it to come back with â€œits best termsâ€ for a takeover.
GVC is expected to gazump 888â€™s offer with a cash and share offer of about Â£1 billion, most likely forcing its rival to table a revised cash-and-share offer of its own.
Shares in Bwin edged up to 116Â½p, 888 rose by 1Â¼p to 162Â¾p and GVC added 13p to close at 448p. GVC is listed on the junior AIM exchange but a successful bid for Bwin would lead to a reverse takeover whereby it would join the main market, potentially giving the shares a boost.