International Game Technology (IGT) could be on the verge of a buyout by Italian gaming group GTECH SpA. IGT, the Nevada based company that manufactures roughly half of the gaming machines in the United States and owns online gaming software developer Wagerworks, is believed to be in preliminary acquisition talks with GTECH after releasing a veiled statement earlier this week that it was “exploring a broad range of strategic alternatives” and looking at “changes to our capital structure and adjustments to our portfolio of businesses.”
This, after rumors surfaced that it had hired Morgan Stanley to handle sales offers for the company, a turn of events that saw its stock jump 10.52 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.
Meanwhile, Rome-based GTECH, which is the world’s largest operator of lotteries, said it had hired financial advisers to negotiate a deal. IGT is the world’s largest manufacturer of gaming machines and has a market capitalization of almost $4 billion, but it also has $2.2 billion in long-term debt. In March, it was forced to lay off seven percent of its workforce globally in order to save costs; the company has offices in 11 countries, from Mexico to China. The following month it reported a 66 percent decline in second-quarter earnings and a 15 percent decline in net revenue.
Sixty-Three Percent of Global Lottery Market
GTECH Corporation was once a US company before it merged in 2006 with Italy’s De Agostini Group, which used it to bolster its Lottomatica SpA empire. The merger created a global lottery behemoth, GTECH SpA, which now has 63 percent of the global lottery market. It operates in all continents and across 52 countries, including the US, employing over 8,500 globally. Today, it has a market capitalization of $4.64 billion.
IGT is remaining tight-lipped about the ongoing talks, however, not least because there are several private equity groups that are also interested in an acquisition.
“No decisions have been made by the board regarding any particular alternative available to the company and there can be no assurances that any transaction or other strategic change will be entered into as a result of the current exploration of alternatives,” said IGT in a statement.
Among those also looking into the sale is billionaire Ronald Perelman’s MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, in which lottery giant Scientific Games Corp has a controlling stake. Also in the running is the controlling stakeholder in Caesars Entertainment Corp, Apollo Global Management.
Bally Out of the Picture
However, according to Sterne Agee brokers gaming analyst David Bain, one company that won’t be in the mix is IGT’s main industry rivals Bally Technologies Inc. (BYI), due to “potential anti-trust issues.”
“Further, should IGT be acquired by a private equity firm, or other non-listed US entity, the space of investable suppliers shrinks considerably to the benefit of BYI,” he said.
Credit Suisse analysts agreed: “If IGT presses ahead with a sales process, we believe it is unlikely that Bally Technologies would be able to pull off a deal given its current leverage levels, potential overlap in certain business lines (systems), and regulatory constraints, not to mention the recent Dragonplay acquisition.”
BYI recently announced that it will acquire the successful Israeli social games developer Dragonplay for $100 million.