Online Gambling Firm GVC Sweetens Bid for Rival

Bwin accepted a cash and stock deal worth almost $1.4 million from online casino and poker firm 888, which is controlled by the Israeli brothers Avi and Aaron Shaked.

Aastha Agnihotri
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Send in e-mailSend in e-mail Digital Entertainment Plc online poker app on an iPhone 6.Credit: Bloomberg
Aastha Agnihotri

Online gambling firm GVC Holdings Plc has raised its offer for Digital Entertainment to about 1 billion pounds ($1.55 billion), topping a recently-accepted bid from 888 Holdings Plc.

Bwin, which put itself up for sale last year, accepted a cash and stock deal worth almost 900 million pounds from online casino and poker firm 888, which is controlled by the Israeli brothers Avi and Aaron Shaked,  earlier this month.

The recommended deal is the latest in a flurry of M&A activity in the industry, a trend set to continue as firms expand to help offset increasing taxes and tighter regulation and fund higher marketing and technology spend.

GVC's offer of 122.5 pence per share, consisting of 25p in cash and the rest in new GVC shares, is 18 percent higher than 888's offer price of 104.09 pence.

Bwin confirmed on Monday it had received an offer from GVC and said it would make an announcement as and when appropriate.

The company has struggled with the decline of regulated poker markets in Europe since it was created via a merger of sports betting group Bwin and online poker group PartyGaming in 2011.

"Whilst we believe the acquisition of Bwin would add value for GVC shareholders, and for Bwin shareholders represents a 12p (10% premium), in our view over the long term 888 would add more value," analysts at Panmure Gordon wrote in a note.

GVC said it would finance the deal through a combination of new GVC shares and a 400-million-euro ($440 million) senior secured loan from Cerberus Capital.

GVC's earlier offer of 908 million pounds was backed by its Canadian partner Amaya Inc.

The company also said it planned to raise about 150 million pounds through an equity placing to fund restructuring costs and refinance existing debt.

GVC, whose market value is less than a third of Bwin's, said the deal would lead to cost benefits of more than 135 million euros per annum by the end of 2017.

Bwin's shares were up 2.3 percent at 111.1 pence on the London Stock Exchange, while GVC's were down 0.5 percent.

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