GVC Raises Stakes to £1 Billion in Bwin.party Takeover War

GVC  £1 billion bwin.party bid

GVC bets £1 billion on bwin.party: with Amaya out of the picture, a factor that complicated the previous deal, it may well be enough for bwin shareholders to take notice. (Image: bwin.party.com)

GVC Holdings is in it to win it: bwin.party, that is.

A battle between online gambling superpowers is raging over the future of sports betting and poker giant bwin.party, with GVC tabling a hefty £1 billion offer this week in an effort to drive 888 Holdings out of the picture.

It’s a shocker because a bid from 888, for £898 million, had looked to be a done deal. The bwin board had recommended the 888 offer to its shareholders, and announced that it was ready to move forward to finalize the deal.

The board had favored 888’s offer over a previous bid from GVC, backed by PokerStars’ owner Amaya Inc, that had been worth £10 million more. But bwin.party rejected the joint bid because its proposal to split the company in two, with GVC taking control of the sports book and Amaya the poker operations, was the riskier option.

Meanwhile, it was clear that the board was keen on an 888 acquisition. It cited various synergies with 888, such as overlaps in regulated markets that would save a merged group millions in duplicated costs, technology integration and licensing fees.

Solo Coup

Whispers were coming out of the City last week, however, suggesting that GVC, which owns Sportingbet.com, was plotting a solo coup, and preparing a monster reraise, this time without Amaya’s capital.

Insiders in the financial quarter said that GVC representatives were testing the appetite of several financial institutions for a large fund-raise to trump 888.

Many analysts believed that the firm would struggle to raise the kind of capital that would make bwin.party’s shareholder’s sit up and take notice. GVC has a market cap that’s about one-third of bwin.party’s, and thus any takeover would be significantly debt-financed.

But, seemingly within a matter of days, GVC had procured a loan from Cerberus Capital Management, a US private equity group, for around £282 million in order to finance their new bid.

Observers expect 888 to come back with a new proposal, so watch this space.

Full Tilt Bans Heads-up Cash and Game-selection

Meanwhile, in online poker news, PokerStars’ sister site Full Tilt has announced a dramatic shake up to its cash games, removing its heads-up tables completely, as well as its game selection facilities.

This is part of a move designed to attract more recreational players to the tables and frustrate so-called “bum hunters.”

A bum hunter (which sounds far ruder in the UK than America where the phrase originated) is an accomplished player who will actively seek out “bad” players, refusing to play anyone else.

For too long, online poker has struggled to attract new players to the game, for the simple fact that the skill gap between good and bad players is greater than ever. That means life has become tougher at the bottom of the fish tank, meaning that less-skilled players are finding poker less fun, and the lack of casual players, who are essentially the cornerstone of the poker economy, is hurting online poker.

Now, visitors to the Full Tilt lobby will be permitted to select their chosen stakes before being whisked to a seat at a table of the software’s choosing, making it impossible to seek out soft targets.

Heads-up games, meanwhile, are notorious feeding grounds for bum-hunters who will lie in wait hoping an unwitting innocent strays inside.

It’s a bold experiment from Full Tilt, and any move that aims to bring the fun back to poker gets our thumbs up.

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