Apollo Woos Great Canadian Gaming Shareholders, Boosts Takeover Bid by 15 Percent

Posted on: December 21, 2020, 08:49h. 

Last updated on: December 22, 2020, 09:58h.

Apollo Global Management (NYSE:APO) is obliging Great Canadian Gaming Corp. (GCGC) investors, hiking its takeover offer for the casino operator 15.4 percent to C$45 a share from C$39.

Apollog GCGC
Great Canadian Gaming’s Elements Casino. Apollo increased its bid for the company. (Image: Associated Press)

The private equity firm’s upped bid for the gaming company comes a week after reports surfaced that an increased proposal was under consideration. Apollo entertaining a higher overture came about after several major GCGC shareholders scoffed at the initial proposition. It was revealed in November and unanimously approved by the target’s board. Those investors have come around.

Shareholders holding approximately 50 percent of Great Canadian’s outstanding common shares have entered into voting support agreements pursuant to which they have committed to vote in favor of the Transaction at a purchase price of C$45 per share,” according to a statement issued by both the buyer and the seller.

GCGC operates 25 gaming venues, casinos and pari-mutuel establishments across its home country, including on both coasts and in Ontario, the nation’s largest province by population.

Rocky Road to Get Here

While GCGC’s board was swift to approve Apollo’s first proposal, it was just a matter of days before investors ranging from asset managers to hedge funds deemed it a low ball offer, with Toronto-based Burgundy Asset Management saying the private equity shop was being opportunistic in trying to exploit sluggishness in the target’s Ontario operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Burgundy, GCGC’s third-largest investor, said the C$39 per share proposal didn’t adequately reflect the gaming company’s post-pandemic rebound prospects in Ontario. The asset manager wasn’t alone in feeling that way, as BloombergSen and CI Financial were also part of the chorus deriding Apollo’s pitch. Prior to the offer being upped, CI Financial instructed its fund managers to vote against it, while BloombergSen called it “terrible.”

Some smaller, US-based investors also criticized the bid, forcing Apollo to assess the specter of owners of half GCGC’s outstanding equity opposing the takeover. But sometimes all it takes is more money to change minds.

“Supporting Shareholders include funds managed by BloombergSen, CI Global Asset Management, Burgundy Asset Management Ltd., Madison Avenue Partners, LP, HughesLittle Investment Management Ltd., Newtyn Management LLC, Sand Grove Capital Management LLP, Hawk Ridge Capital Management and Alpine Associates Management Inc.,” according to the statement.

Angling for Gaming Deals

Increasing its offer for GCGC caps a busy stretch for Apollo in the gaming industry. The private equity behemoth recently missed out on William Hill, as Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR) leveraged its relationship with the British bookmaker to win that acquisition prize.

However, Apollo is a legitimate suitor for William Hill’s European operations, which Caesars will almost certainly sell. Earlier this month, an affiliate of the private equity firm doled out $1.15 billion for International Game Technology’s (NYSE:IGT) Italian digital gaming, gaming machine, and sports wagering operations.

GCGC investors will vote on the deal Wednesday. If it passes, the casino operator will become a private company. The buyer says it has plans to accelerate the operator’s growth in its home market.