With more drama than the average episode of The Sopranos, Aristocrat’s protracted takeover of Playtech is reportedly set for collapse.
The dramatic revelation came as Playtech confirmed they did not think that the majority of shareholders – they need a vote of 75% or more to confirm the £2.1 billion deal – would give it the green light.
Playtech has, cryptically, since revealed they were ‘considering other approaches’, while Aristocrat themselves are thought to be readying a takeover bid for another company.
Unless the majority of shareholders can be convinced to vote in favour of the deal, the curtain will come down on a process that has taken more than six months to get to this point, with a number of suitors – including Gopher Investments and JKO Play – having already fallen by the wayside.
A group of powerful Asian investors, which include Birmingham City owner Paul Suen and Vitasoy heiress Karen Lo, are thought to be the sizable consortium of Playtech shareholders blocking the move – their 27.7% holding giving them enough power to veto any such offer.
Speaking with more than a hint of resignation, Aristocrat’s chief executive Trevor Croker previously revealed:
“The emergence of a certain group of shareholders who built a blocking stake – while refusing to engage with either ourselves or Playtech – materially impacted the prospects for the success of our offer.”
In a bizarre twist, Aristocrat representatives have claimed that the rebel group only took up their shares AFTER the October takeover offer was made, leaving many questioning their intentions. The Australian firm had written to the takeover regulator to see if the consortium was acting as a ‘concert party’ blocking the deal, but to no avail.
What Next for Playtech?
It had seemed almost a given that Playtech would start 2022 in the hands of new owners.
The online casino software firm had been attracting the interest of a number of interested parties, with the Hong Kong based equity group Gopher Investments – already the second-largest shareholder in the firm – close to pulling the trigger on an acquisition in 2021.
Then former F1 supremo Eddie Jordan showed an interest as part of his JKO Play consortium. They had embarked on a fact-finding mission at the tailend of last year, examining Playtech’s books and completing the necessary due diligence. But it was confirmed in January by the Irishman that he was pulling the plug on the deal.
“Our team worked tirelessly to assemble a bid that would create value for Playtech’s shareholders, and open an exciting new chapter for the business,” Jordan said.
“We continue to evaluate a number of opportunities in the gaming and associated technology sectors, where we see exciting growth prospects in a number of international markets.”
Leaders at Playtech have already begun drawing up a Plan B, and it was reported last month that they are prepared to break up the business into smaller units in order to facilitate a sale.
The company chairman, Brian Mattingley, confirmed:
“This process has shone a spotlight on the fundamental premium value of Playtech’s businesses. In the event that the Aristocrat offer does not proceed, the board is determined to pursue options to maximise value for all shareholders and accelerate validation of that value.”