After a four-month long battle for one of the biggest gambling operators in the world, GVC Holdings Plc has beat out rival 888 Holdings Plc to purchase Bwin.party Digital Entertainment Plc for 1.12 billion pounds ($1.7 billion).
888 said in a statement, “The 888 board has concluded that, as a result of its own extensive due diligence on Bwin.Party, it cannot see sufficient value in Bwin.Party to warrant a revision to its offer.” And so ends the saga of one of the biggest corporate gambling fights in history as the market consolidates and behemoths are formed through mergers and acquisitions to survive in a new landscape with increased regulation and taxes.
On July 13 we reported that GVC had offered $1.4 billion in cash and stock to try to wrest the gambling giant away from 888, who had made an undisclosed offer in May. The Bwin board annointed GVC “preferred bidder” status at that time and was said to be working with them to close the deal. That offer was made in conjunction with Amaya Gaming, who presumably would want to spin off the PokerStars brand to lock up their stronghold on the world online poker market. 888 didn’t take the news lying down.
Five days later we reported that in spite of the overall value of their offer being worth slightly less, Bwin accepted an offer of cash and shares from 888 giving Bwin.party shareholders 48.9 per cent of 888 Holdings. Most analysts presumed that the offer was recommended by the board as it presented a more secure package with increased certainty for investors. Although all the talk was of a coup by 888, Morgan Stanley at the time said that the GVC offer was still on the table.
Activist investor Jason Ader, whose Spring Owl Asset Management is the fourth largest shareholder in Bwin.party, said in a statement at that time, “I believe not only are 888 the best buyer for this company but that its management team will realize significant long-term synergy value for our shareholders with the least amount of execution and regulatory risk.”
Then on July 28th we reported that GVC had tendered a new bid, without Amaya’s financial or leveraged backing. That bid saw a combination of GVC shares and a senior secured loan from private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management.
Bloomberg reported that day that Ader had stated that if GVC were to make their bid another 14% higher it would be, “just enough to have a conversation with Bwin,” noting that there were unspecified risks and uncertainties involved with the GVC bid.
888 remained relatively quiet throughout the process. On August 9th we reported that GVC has tendered a revised offer worth 1.03 billion pounds (US$1.6 billion).
On September 2nd we reported that GVC chairman, Lee Feldman told The Times that GVC was not going to walk away and that, “We don’t see (going hostile) as necessary right now as we’re offering a higher price and have a better operating track record. That said, we believe GVC should own this asset and we wouldn’t exclude any strategy.” This meant that GVC was ready to “go hostile” and take their offer directly to shareholders if the Bwin board didn’t accept their last offer.