Exclusive: Canada's Amaya, Britain's William Hill in talks to merge

Fri Oct 7, 2016 7:19pm EDT
 
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By John Tilak and Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian online gambling company Amaya Inc and British bookmaker William Hill Plc said they were in talks to combine in a merger of equals, confirming a Reuters report about the discussions earlier on Friday.

The all-share merger would be "consistent with the strategic objectives" of both companies, they said in a joint statement.

Amaya has received strong buyout interest from other companies in the industry and some private equity firms, two sources familiar with the situation said.

The statement did not mention GVC Holdings Plc, a sports betting and gaming company based in the Isle of Man which the sources had also cited as a suitor. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

GVC did not respond to a request for comment.

The sources also said that former Amaya Chief Executive David Baazov, subject of an insider trading investigation from Quebec's securities regulator, had abandoned plans to bid for the company. Amaya said in February it had received a nonbinding proposal from Baazov to take the company private, but the formal bid never came.

The bids for the operator of online gambling website PokerStars were above Baazov's planned offer price of C$21 per share, the sources said.

Amaya's stock jumped on the Reuters report and trading was halted within minutes, at C$23.41, up 9.1 percent on the day, in Toronto. The level was the highest in about 11 months. The company had a market capitalization of about C$3.1 billion ($2.34 billion) before the rally.   Continued...

 
The logo of gaming company Amaya Inc is seen at its head office in Montreal June 22, 2015. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi