Canadian teachers' pension to buy UK lottery operator

Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:50pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, Canada's largest pension plan, said on Thursday it would buy Camelot, the British national lottery operator, for 389 million pounds ($576 million).

Camelot has been reviewing its options since last year when some of its shareholders -- Cadbury Plc, Royal Mail Enterprises, De La Rue Plc, Fujitsu Services and Thales Electronics -- indicated interest in selling.

Private equity firm CVC and the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan had been the remaining bidders for the operator, a banking source close to the process told Reuters RLPC earlier in March and a final decision had been expected.

The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan controls assets of nearly $90 billion. Among its many holdings are: a majority stake in the Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as airports in the United Kingdon, gas and timber holdings, and several public venues throughout Canada.

Camelot has a nine-year license to run the British lottery system, and an option to extend that deal for an additional five years.

The lottery is one of the most popular forms of gambling in the United Kingdom. Aside from money used for prizes, a majority of the lottery's income goes to "good causes" designated by the British Parliament. Other proceeds go to taxes and lottery retailers. Camelot gets one of the smallest shares of the lottery income.

In January 2010, the most recent month for which results are available, Camelot said National Lottery ticket sales rose 2.7 percent over the same period last year.

"We look forward to partnering with management to realize the full potential of the Camelot business over the remaining license term and into the future," said Wayne Kozun, senior vice president for public equities of the Teachers' plan.

The investment banks Rothschild and Greenhill & Co had run the auction for Camelot.

Completion of the transaction is conditional upon approval from Camelot's regulator, the National Lottery Commission, the pension plan said in the release.

(Reporting by Megan Davies and Ernest Scheyder, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)