Aristocrat acquisition of Playtech on thin ice as shareholders stay silent ahead of general meeting

By Ralph Trayfalgar, Updated:

Aristocrat Leisure’s potential acquisition of online gambling giant Playtech is on thin ice as key investors in its target are refusing to engage in discussions about the US$3.8 billion acquisition ahead of a general meeting on the offer scheduled in February.

According to a statement released late on Friday, Aristocrat has urged the Playtech casino board to work harder to persuade shareholders that its offer is in their best interests, following the discovery that several shareholders, including those who purchased Playtech shares following the announcement of Aristocrat's offer, had not spoken with representatives from the company.

The statement reads: "Aristocrat further encourages the Playtech board to take all necessary efforts to ensure that the transaction with Aristocrat results in Playtech shareholders getting full and fair value for their investment," the company said in a statement.

No competition

It was when possible competitor bidder JKO Play declared on Friday evening that it would not pursue an offer for Playtech, that Aristocrat gaming company took a tougher stance, leaving Aristocrat's proposal for Playtech as the only offer on the table for the company.

Eddie Jordan, an Irish businessman and media personality, is the leader of the JKO Play consortium of investors, which owns a 0.51 percent investment in the Playtech company. It had until January 26 to make a counter-offer for Aristocrat, but failed to make such an offer and withdrew from the running.

Gopher Investments, another stakeholder in Playtech, also withdrew from the bidding in November 2021.

The Playtech board added in a statement on Friday that it was still advising shareholders to take advantage of the Aristocrat proposal, which is worth 680 pence ($12.83) for each Playtech share retained.

Playtech's release stated that "a number of material investors have not to date engaged meaningfully with their views on the Aristocrat offer," pointing out in particular "certain investors who have declared or taken major positions in the company in the wake of the announcement of the Aristocrat offer." 

“The absence of customary levels of engagement means that the board is approaching the court and general meetings without a clear understanding of whether these shareholders are supportive of the Aristocrat offer.”

General meeting looms

Playtech has decided to postpone its annual general meeting from early January to February 2 in order to allow possible competitor bidders more time to put up a bid package. Playtech, which was established in 1999, develops software for use in online casinos, online sports betting, online bingo games, and online poker rooms.

Aristocrat informed its shareholders on Friday that its offer was now the only formal offer available to Playtech shareholders, despite the fact that other possible bidders had been given time to submit alternative bids to the board of directors. According to Aristocrat, the regulatory clearances process is proceeding well, and the company is dedicated to completing the transaction smoothly and easily. 

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