Playtech confirms approach from consortium co-founded by Eddie Jordan

Gambling software developer Playtech has confirmed it has received a takeover approach from a consortium co-owned by Irish businessman Eddie Jordan.

Sky News reported last night that JKO Play was in talks over a possible bid worth more than £3billion and was working with private equity firm Centerbridge Partners to help finance the move.

Following the report, Playtech admitted it had been approached by JKO a fortnight ago and had provided due diligence information to the group in line with city takeover rules.

Takeover talks: Playtech admitted it had been approached by JKO a fortnight ago and had provided due diligence information to the group in line with city takeover rules

Takeover talks: Playtech admitted it had been approached by JKO a fortnight ago and had provided due diligence information to the group in line with city takeover rules

The latest approach hots up the takeover battle for the FTSE 250 company, which initially received a £2.1billion offer in October from Aristocrat Leisure, an Australian slot machine manufacturer.

It was then revealed on Monday last week that Hong Kong-based Gopher Investments, its second-largest shareholder, was considering a rival bid.Playtech said current discussions with the investment vehicle were ‘ongoing.’

For the Aristocrat deal to pass, at least three-quarters of Playtech shareholders are required to vote in favour, and the business must sell its financial services division Finalto to Gopher Investments.

An alternative bid will also only be considered if it values Playtech, whose founder Teddy Sagi owns London’s Camden Market, at a minimum of 10 per cent more than the Aristocrat bid, implying an offer of 748p per share is required.

Set up in Estonia in 1999, Playtech designs software for online gaming applications ranging from sports betting to fixed-odds arcade games, among many others.

Its clients have included the bookmaking giants William Hill, Betfair and Bet365, but also entertainment giant Warner Bros to develop online casino games based on DC Comics publications.

Online developer: Set up in Estonia in 1999, Playtech designs software for online gaming applications ranging from sports betting to fixed-odds arcade games, among many others

Online developer: Set up in Estonia in 1999, Playtech designs software for online gaming applications ranging from sports betting to fixed-odds arcade games, among many others

The group floated on London’s AIM Exchange seven years after its founding at a value of around £550million. Since then, it has bought numerous game developers and tried, but failed to purchase foreign exchange trader Plus500.

AJ Bell’s investment director Russ Mould said the firm was ‘attracting suitors faster than Marilyn Monroe, as a third takeover approach from former Formula One boss Eddie Jordan sets the scene for a bidding war.

‘A rumoured £3 billion proposal would blow the existing offers out of the water, and shareholders will be watching closely, hoping they can be the winners in any battle for the business.’

In response to JKO’s preliminary bid, Aristocrat said in a statement that it continued to work together with Playtech to complete the proposed acquisition, adding, the regulatory approval process was on track.

Tycoon: JKO was set up earlier this year by Eddie Jordan (pictured), who is well-known for his involvement in Formula One racing and was the founder of Jordan Grand Prix

Tycoon: JKO was set up earlier this year by Eddie Jordan (pictured), who is well-known for his involvement in Formula One racing and was the founder of Jordan Grand Prix

The company said it put out the statement on Wednesday in response to media speculation of the takeover bid and without JKO’s prior consent.Discussions with JKO were at an early stage, and there was no certainty that a deal would be reached, it added.

JKO was set up earlier this year by Eddie Jordan and Keith O’Loughlin, the former head of American gambling corporation Scientific Games, with a focus on investing in the gaming and entertainment industry.

Jordan is well-known for his involvement in Formula One racing, both as an analyst for the BBC and Channel 4 and the founder of Jordan Grand Prix, whose drivers included championship winners Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill.

But he has also had extensive interests in the business world, including being an investor in numerous property developments, the owner of publishing house Debrett’s, a hedge fund partner, and a former shareholder in Celtic Football Club.

Shares in Playtech ended trading 3.9 per cent higher at £7.70 on Thursday.

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