Playtech confirms JKO approach as bidding war looms against Aristocrat takeover

By | November 18, 2021

The board of Playtech Plc has moved to confirm media speculation that it has been approached by a third suitor seeking to acquire the FTSE250 gambling technology group.

This morning, Playtech governance confirmed that on 5 November, a ‘preliminary approach’ was made by JKO Play Limited, a consortium led by former F-1 team owner Eddie Jordan and Scientific Games executive Keith O’Loughlin.

Fulfilling its fiduciary duties, Playtech’s board has provided JKO access to due diligence information to present a formal buyout bid that may be put forward to company investors.

The update disclosed that a JKO’s approach was contingent on funding (‘among others’) from New York private equity fund Centerbridge Partners – “regarding the possibility of it providing institutional debt and structured capital funding”.

“Discussions with JKO are at an early stage and ongoing. As such, there can be no certainty that JKO’s approach will result in an offer for the Company, nor as to the terms on which any offer might be made,” – read Playtech’s statement.

Playtech underlined to investors that JKO is in the same position as Hong Kong-based vehicle Gopher Investments that have requested information but have yet to present a formal offer.

As stands, Playtech governance continues to recommend the 680p per share in cash offer proposed by ASX gambling group Aristocrat Leisure on 18 October.

The £2.7 billion deal put forward to investors is dependent on Aristocrat Leisure fulfilling conditions of its scheme document, including securing a shareholder guarantee on the sale of Finalto – Playtech’s financial brokerage, which Gopher seeks to acquire.

Backed by the board, Aristocrat is considered the ‘clubhouse leader’ in the pursuit of Playtech, having secured rights on £865 million cash facility to acquire Playtech and clear its corporate debt of £600 million.

Deal observers speculate that JKO or Gopher will have to put forward a + £3 billion counteroffer with significant shareholder incentives to trigger a bidding war against Aristocrat.

Trevor Croker, CEO of Aristocrat has stated confidence in the deal put forward by the ASX group, that will deliver the greatest value to Playtech investors by forming the dominant land-based and digital gaming B2B technology provider for tier-1 gambling groups across all markets.

“Aristocrat’s recommended offer to acquire Playtech, announced after period end, is another demonstration of our appetite to accelerate the implementation of our strategy through accretive M&A, in particular where it can deliver new capabilities and access to significant growth opportunities,” Croker commented on developments

“We are focused on achieving necessary approvals, and continue to expect the acquisition to complete in the second quarter of calendar year 2022.”

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