PokerStars’ Amaya backs off from Merger Talks with Will Hill

No Merger for Top Online Gambling Ops Amaya, William HillJust a couple of weeks ago, two of the top online gambling operators in the world were negotiating the terms of a possible merger. Canada-based Amaya, owner of PokerStars, and London’s William Hill PLC, were on track to partake in one of the biggest mergers in iGaming history. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Will Hill has been the target of takeover bids from fellow UK company Rank Group and Gibraltar-based 888 Holdings. The live and interactive sport betting giant staunchly refused a $4.2bn bid from that direction, but seemed much more affable to nestling beneath the comfortably lucrative wing of Amaya.

It was announced on Friday, October 7, that Amaya and Will Hill were in merger talks, and that the Canadian gaming company’s interest was derived from a desire to diversify their betting products.

Talks didn’t last long though, as both firms lost interest in the merger pretty quickly. The decision may have been influence by last week’s objection from Parvus Asset Management, which owns 14.3% of the Will Hill brand.

No More Strategic Alternatives for Amaya

According to Divyesh (David) Gadhia, Chairman of Amaya’s Board of Directors, it was just one of many “strategic alternatives” the company was looking into.

The PokerStars parent has been investigating these strategic alternatives for months now, dating back to February 2016. That was the when Amaya founder and then-CEO David Baazov voiced his desire to buy out all other shareholders and return the world’s top online gambling operator to a privately held company.

However, Baazov hasn’t fared so well since then. Securities regulators in Quebec have charged him with five counts of misconduct, including communicating privileged information and attempting to influence Amaya’s stock price. He and two of his associates pled not guilty to the charges, but Baazov temporarily left his station as CEO to deal with the legal situation.

On Tuesday, Baazov said he still intends to buy out the company and take it private, although he has yet to make an offer. According to Amaya’s board members, they would be willing to evaluate any bona fide offer, but they are done investigating strategic alternatives, and that includes the potential merger with Will Hill.

Mutual Decision to End Merger Talks

“Amaya is a strong and growing company with experienced management and a proven strategy to deliver profitable growth and shareholder value,” read a statement from Board Chairman Gadhia.

“Together with our financial advisors, we evaluated a wide range of strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value and have concluded that remaining an independent company is in the best interest of Amaya’s shareholders at this time.”

A statement from William Hill on Tuesday indicated a mutual loss of interest in the potential merger with Amaya.

“After canvassing views from a number of William Hill’s major shareholders, the board has decided that it will not pursue discussions with Amaya.” the company said. “Accordingly, the board has informed Amaya that it is withdrawing from discussions and wishes Amaya well for the future.”

The PokerStars owner is still in tip-top shape, though. Shares closed at $20.33 on Monday, giving the top online gambling operator an overall market value of just under $3 billion.

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