Bwin.party takeover talks are back on, according to the latest market chatter.
The company’s stock plummeted by 20 percent last Friday following rumors that acquisition negotiations had fallen apart, but share prices recovered slightly on Tuesday amid speculation that Amaya Gaming is still in the picture.
The recovery was also aided by the collapse of William Hill’s efforts to buy bwin.party’s rival 888.com, as speculation grows that the UK bookmaking giant may now also be in the mix.
Bwin.party denied the rumors of a breakdown earlier this week, adding that it would be “obliged to update the market” if this had been the case. There was, however, “no such update to issue,” a spokesman for the company said.
Suitors Want Sports Betting but Not Poker
Rumors have swirled that bwin.party has been looking to sell some or all of its assets since early last summer, something it denied until November when a still-unconfirmed story broke that Amaya was preparing a $1.4 billion takeover. Several news outlets also reported that Playtech, Ladbrokes, and Apollo Global Management, which partly owns Caesars entertainment, were also courting the company.
There was speculation this week that talks may have stalled because of a reluctance from bwin-party to break up the company, with reports that prospective acquirers were interested only in buying the sportsbetting arm, the company’s bread and butter, with the ailing online poker operation proving less attractive.
Online poker was blamed for a loss after tax of €94 million across all operations during the first half of the 2014, with online poker declining by 25 percent in Italy, 9 percent in France and 2 percent in Spain.
Makes Sense for Amaya
However, there are reasons to believe that purchasing all of the company’s assets may still be attractive to Amaya. The acquisition of party-poker would increase Amaya’s monopoly on the global online poker market and absorb a competitor that is already well-established and licensed in the US through its operations in New Jersey. Meanwhile, bwin.party’s sports betting technical knowhow and software would prove a valuable asset as Amaya looks to add sports betting to its PokerStars platform across Europe.
William Hill, meanwhile, showed it is serious about expanding its operations when it offered $1.47 billion to purchase 888 Holdings last week, an offer that was ultimately rebuffed. Whether bwin-party would prove to be such a good fit for the bookmaking giant remains to be seen.
William Hills’ approach to 888 Holdings came at a time of expected consolidation within the European online gambling industry as it is forced to contend with the new 25 percent point of consumption tax in the UK and a change of European Union rules on the taxation of digital services, both of which will dent profits.