TheBusinessOnline reported this week that MGM Mirage and Ladbrokes (a British gambling empire) have started exploratory takeover talks with a number of online gambling companies which have been hit hard by the recent anti-online gambling bill in the US.
MGM is the world’s second-largest gambling group, and it is believed they have approached PartyGaming to discuss a possible takeover. Prior to the US legislation restricting the ability of US banking institutions to process transactions to online gambling companies, PartyGaming was the largest online gambling company worldwide. However, they were hit hard by the legislation and chose to withdraw from the US market, which provided up to 70% of 32 Vegas their revenue.
As a result of their decision to restrict access to their gambling sites, Party Casino and Party Poker, the share price of PartyGaming shares tumbled, leaving the publicly listed company as a prime target for a takeover from a rival group.
Bankers linked with MGM Mirage have reportedly stated the talks are serious, albeit in an early stage. PartyGaming has also recently been linked to a possible merger with 888, another company hit hard by the US legislation.
Representatives from Ladbrokes had previously declined to comment on the takeover rumors which have linked their company to a PartyGaming takeover, saying they were watching the situation.
Ladbrokes have previously made it abundantly clear they are keen to expand into the Asian market, and the 888 brand was designed with the Asian market in mind (888 is a very lucky number in some Asian cultures). However, Ladbrokes announced yesterday that they are in talks to buy 888 Holdings. It is believed that Ladbrokes chief executive Chris Bell and and 888 boss John Anderson are in Tel Aviv at the moment discussing the takeover proposal.
But it seems that the entire industry is in acquisition fever at the moment. “The truth is that everybody is talking to everybody else,” said one source involved in discussions. “These things are at an early stage – the US situation only developed a few weeks ago.”
PartyGaming CEO Mitch Garber has talked up PartyGaming’s chances of buying up smaller rival companies at low prices – prices forced down by the US situation. However, it now seems as if PartyGaming themselves may be the target of even bigger companies as a result of price their shares are trading at. PartyGaming has been hovering around the 27p mark this week, after reaching a high of 158p earlier this year.
One is for certain, there will be takeovers in the British online gambling industry in the near future and it will be interesting to watch and see who the big movers will be
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