The torturously-long bidding war to buy online casino software specialist Playtech could be entering its last chance saloon.
The firm has agreed via the UK Takeover Panel to extend the timeframe available to potential suitors TTB Partners to make a formal offer, although they have confirmed that July 15 is now the final ‘put up or shut up’ deadline for bids.
Playtech had been the subject of a £2.1 billion bid from Australian firm Aristocrat Gaming in 2021, however that was rejected by the majority of their shareholders – a large group of whom are said to have an interest in the Asian ‘boutique finance’ operator TTB.
Other expressions of interest from the likes of Eddie Jordan’s JKO Play and Gopher Investments also came to nothing.
One of the reasons that shareholders rejected the Aristocrat offer back in February was because TTB Partners had already intimated they were willing to outbid the firm, however they are yet to make any formal move to that end – despite Playtech insisting that talks are ongoing and ‘progress is being made’.
Playtech appear to be running out of patience, and while they have extended their previous June 17 deadline, this could be the last chance that TTB has to make their interest known in concrete fashion.
“This is not an announcement of a firm intention to make an offer, and there can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which any offer will be made,” a Playtech spokesperson revealed.
Nothing’s Off the Table
Decision makers at Playtech have intimated in the past that if a complete sale of the company cannot be achieved, they will look to sell off individual divisions of the business to the highest bidder – in an attempt to ‘maximise shareholder value’.
They could have achieved that with a sale to Aristocrat, although some Playtech stakeholders have accused the Australian firm of creating a campaign of lies against a consortium of their shareholders based in Asia.
Tom Hall, a former chief executive at Playtech who is advising TTB, claims that Aristocrat made up salacious gossip about the group in a bid to enhance their offer in the eyes of other shareholders – including the claim that the Asian consortium would block any bid for the firm made by Aristocrat.
Hall, occasionally known as ‘Hong Kong Tom’, rubbished allegations that he acted as a middle-man between Playtech and the Asian shareholders.
“As I explained to the Takeover Panel, I said I had never heard of or spoken to these people or their advisers,” he said.
The current chief exec at Playtech, Mor Weizer, also revealed that ‘UK-based tier one institutions’ had rejected Aristocrat’s offer for – in their eyes – undervaluing the company.
However, evidence witnessed by the Financial Times confirms that a significant number of shares in Playtech were acquired after Aristocrat’s bid was initially accepted by the board of directors – with Paul Suen and Stanley Choi, Asian entrepreneurs known for their investments in English football clubs Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic, chief among those accused of buying a ‘blocking’ share.
Intriguingly, both Hall and Weizer are involved in TTB’s pursuit of Playtech, and it was said by Hall back in March that they planned to make an offer for the company ‘shortly’.