Just when it looked as if Aristocrat’s takeover bid for casino gaming specialist Playtech was a done deal, a third party has entered the race.
Private equity firm Gopher Investments, who are thought to count the Rothschild family amongst its backers, are reportedly lining up a £3 billion offer for the software firm.
That would trump the £2.7 billion deal that was put on the table by Aristocrat Gaming, the Australian slot gaming group that wanted Playtech to power their entry into the US market.
According to a report on the Sky News website, a source close to Gopher has refused to confirm that a formal bid will be made, but that it was ‘seriously’ looking into doing so – a statement of declaration is expected on Monday (November 15).
Playtech’s board has previously given a tentative green light to the Aristocrat deal, which shareholders are expected to vote on in the near future. But Gopher’s interest – which ramps up the company’s value – will certainly put a cat amongst the pigeons.
Adding intrigue to the race is the fact that Gopher has already previously invested in Playtech, acquiring the group’s Finalto financial trading division for around £200 million in September. But the capital firm found out that Playtech are not afraid to play hard-ball in negotiations, after they initially rejected their offer.
The sale of Finalto is still going through, and more unusual still is that Aristocrat’s offer for Playtech was made on the proviso that the financial trading operator was sold to Gopher. It’s all getting rather complicated.
Gopher Investments is an affiliate of TT Bond Partners (TTB), and one of the senior figures within that organisation – Teresa Teague – is confident the Finalto deal will go ahead: “As a major shareholder in Playtech, Gopher is pleased to conclude a transaction delivering value for all shareholders, and looks forward to working with the Playtech board and continuing its constructive dialogue to support growth.”
Two Tribes Go to War
Headquartered in Hong Kong but operating out of the Cayman Islands – as so many financial services providers do, not a great deal is known about Gopher Investments nor TTB.
The holding company lays claim to ‘significant experience’ of investing in the tech and financial sectors, and their existing 5% holding in Playtech could give them the edge in any takeover battle with Aristocrat.
They have typically invested in start-ups to this point, with largely unknown companies such as Xen, FinHabits, Coherent and Mimik in their portfolio.
Playtech hasn’t really commented on the Gopher rumours, other than to release a straight batted statement.
“Discussions with Gopher are at an early stage and ongoing,” that read. “As such, there can be no certainty that Gopher’s approach will result in an offer for the Company, nor as to the terms on which any offer might be made.”
Meanwhile, Aristocrat’s bid marks their first major foray into online casino gaming. They are known primarily as a physical slot machine manufacturer, enjoying success with a number of clients on the Las Vegas strip.
And it seems they are confident of completing the Playtech deal. After hearing of Gopher’s interest, they published a press release that included:
“Aristocrat’s long-term engagement with regulators across key gaming jurisdictions, together with strong financial fundamentals….positions (it) to complete the transaction as planned in the second quarter of calendar year 2022.”