A new batch of billionaire deals may be about to start, as Amaya Gaming is reportedly in negotiations with the gambling group bwin.party, industry rumors say.
According to a source familiar with the issue, the two companies are currently discussing the operation.
"Negotiations are confirmed but, to date, nothing concrete has been arranged," the source said. "The two groups still need to discuss many important details and there are also some legislative issues that still need to be looked into."
The news about Amaya's interest in taking control of bwin.party broke on Wednesday, when a handful of messages from analysts Paul Murphy and Bryce Elder appeared on on the Financial Times Alphaville's Live Markets section.
According to Murphy and Elder, rumors of advanced negotiations between bwin.party and a potential buyer have been running for over a month, even if it was only on Wednesday when the two declared that they "believe that the bidder is the Amaya Gaming Group," quoting an anonymous source.
Few hours after the messages appeared on the online pages of the Financial Times, bwin.party decided to clarify its position with a statement that surprisingly did not rule out the possibility of an imminent takeover.
"Further to recent media speculation regarding a possible bid for bwin.party, the Board of bwin.party confirms that it has entered into preliminary discussions with a number of interested parties regarding a variety of potential business combinations with a view to creating additional value for bwin.party shareholders," the message said.
Although it did not explicitly mention Amaya and it referred to an undefined "number of interested parties," the message promptly published by the company sounded to many as an indirect confirmation of what had been published by the Financial Times.
"Such discussions may or may not result in an offer being made for the Company," bwin.party's statement continued. "However, as all such discussions remain at a preliminary stage, there can be no certainty as to whether or not they will result in any form of transaction with any party."
According to other industry rumors, however, Amaya may not be the only one interested to bring home bwin.party, as the Gibraltar-based gambling group seems to be also one of Playtech's top targets, together with the London-based Ladbrokes.
While most of the mainstream media were busy looking for a way to confirm Amaya's role in the operation, the Evening Standard made an interesting connection and linked bwin.party with the Isle of Man-based gaming software development giant Playtech.
The connection between the two seems possible as on Wednesday Playtech announced it was raising a $315 million war chest, via a convertible bond issue, for acquisitions and "organic opportunities" — something the Evening Standard decided could match the ambiguous statement issued by bwin.party during the same day.
The possibility for bwin.party to land in the hands of Amaya or Playtech has also been immediately blessed by the financial markets — as the confirmation of ongoing negotiations with "a number of interested parties" was rapidly followed by a 12-percent jump of the company's stocks up to 119.1p.
Once known to be one of the dominant players in the online gambling industry, bwin.party lost a great part of its appeal (and player base) during the past years when its poker and bingo products started to perform below the group's expectations.
Although many seem to think that bwin.party's decline is what makes the group a perfect target for Amaya — which in August bought PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker as part of a $4.9 billion deal — Peel Hunt analyst Nicholas Batram believes that the some legislative issues in Germany may risk to become a real deal breaker.
"The timing looks strange, particularly given the uncertain situation in Germany," Batram commented to the Financial Times on Thursday. According to the analyst, some future changes in Germany's online gambling and betting legislation may endanger the position (and the profits) of bwin.party's sports-betting portal in the country, which, to date, represents one of the group's most profitable markets.
Earlier this year, some other industry rumors signaled that bwin.party may have been planning to split its assets in different companies and address its financial issues with the launch of a good company (sports betting) and more potentially bad companies (poker, casino and bingo).
Yet, right after those rumors reached Bloomberg, bwin.party Director of Corporate Communication John Shepherd told us that the news "certainly did not come from anyone from the company," and that bwin.party had "no plans to break up or sell the company."
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