As the final battle for Bwin.party heats up, GVC says they would consider a hostile takeover if they need to. Formerly the preferred bidder, GVC lost position to a unanimous Bwin board recommendation to take 888 Holdings LLC‘s lesser offer in August. The price tag is hovering around $1.5 billion (£1bn). If the board’s final recommendation is to take the 888 bid, GVC is ready to employ “any strategy”.
GVC chairman, Lee Feldman is quoted in The Times as saying his company is not ready to walk away from a win. “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,” Feldman told the news outlet.
Going directly to the stockholders (hostile takeover) has long been considered by some to be a potential strategy, especially with Jason Ader’s SpringOwl Asset Management company being one of the top five shareholders. Earlier, Ader threw fuel on the fire by setting a price he believed would bring Bwin board members back to the table after they announced a deal with 888. It is now said that Ader supports the 888 offer, and while unconfirmed, another top investor, Henderson Global Investors is pulling for the richer GVC offer. Both GVC and 888 are offering a mix of cash and shares for the prize.
At stake is a lion’s share of certain markets, cost cutting synergies in overlapping markets, and the potential to spin off a vertical like poker to Amaya or another interested party if GVC is successful. GVC, 888, and Bwin all offer sports betting, poker, bingo, and online casino gaming. 888 already provides the platform for Bwin.party and have their offices nearby in Gibraltar. GVC has offices in Ireland, Israel, Malta, The Philipines, UK and Uruguay. GVC is seen as the most likely suitor to break up the company if successful in their bid.
Some analysts are saying that the abundance of mega-mergers in the industry is down to taxes and regulations, with smaller companies simply unable to bear the burden. 888 Holdings Executive Chairman Brian Mattingley told Reuters in July, “We believe the deal creates one of the world’s leading online gaming operators,” he added, “It’s all about scale… When you’ve got critical mass you can ride storms and take advantage of opportunities as they come along.”
GVC, through their flagship brands of BetBoo and Sportingbet, handle over €1.5bn in sports wagers yearly in addition to their German language market facing Casino Club which touts 15,000 active members.
888 is said to have upped their offer yesterday but details have not been announced publicly. UK news outlet The Independent is reporting today that over the weekend Bwin was persuaded to now recommend GVC, although that has not been confirmed for us by company officials. An announcement to investors is expected today according to the report.