Amaya Inc, the owner of the PokerStars online gambling brand, has confirmed it is in merger discussions with United Kingdom-listed betting firm William Hill Plc.
Amaya outlined in a statement on Saturday that it and William Hill were in discussions regarding “a potential all-share merger of equals”.
The idea – which in news reports has been mentioned as a GPB4.5-billion (US$5.6-billion) to GPB5-billion exercise – “would be consistent with the strategic objectives of both William Hill and Amaya and would create a clear international leader across online sports betting, poker and casino,” added the Amaya statement.
Meanwhile a news outlet said William Hill faces a possible rival for a link-up with Amaya.
The U.K.’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Saturday that Isle of Man-based GVC Holdings Plc, owner of the Bwin online betting brand, was also interested in tying with Toronto, Canada-listed Amaya. The news outlet didn’t identify the source of the information, but said GVC had declined to comment.
A number of media reports mentioned that increases imposed by the U.K. government on taxation for online betting had helped spur interest in market consolidation among online providers based there.
In July, online gambling businesses 888 Holdings Plc and Rank Group Plc made a takeover offer for William Hill, but talks were discontinued.
Earlier this year, David Baazov stepped down as chief executive of Amaya amid an insider trading probe, but pledged to try and take the group private. Rafi Ashkenazi, who was appointed interim CEO in March 2016, was confirmed in August as Amaya’s chief executive on a permanent basis.
In February, Amaya said it had received a non-binding indication from Mr Baazov that he was in discussion with investors to make an offer for the company valued at around CAD2.8 billion (US$2.1 billion).
Amaya said on Saturday regarding talks with William Hill: “These discussions are ongoing and there can be no certainty that an agreement will be reached.” It noted the potential merger would be classified as a reverse takeover under the listing rules of the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority.
Reuters and Bloomberg News reported on Friday that William Hill and Amaya were in talks regarding the all-stock merger
PokerStars claims to control 70 percent of the online poker market globally, saying it has 2.26 million quarterly active users and a database of more than 100 million users. In Asia the brand is affiliated with the Asia Pacific Poker Tour, which offers live poker tournaments at casino venues around the region.
Amaya bought online poker sites PokerStars and Full Tilt for US$4.9 billion in 2014. The PokerStars brand name is attached to the dedicated poker room at the City of Dreams Macau casino resort in the Cotai district of Macau.
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