Amaya and William Hill Confirm Merger Talks

Posted on October 10th, 2016 by Jon Pineda
Amaya William Hill merger PokerStars

London bookmaker William Hill is in talks to acquire Amaya, though financial details aren’t being made public at this time. (Image: Neil Hall/Reuters)

Amaya and William Hill confirmed over the weekend that the two gaming powerhouses are in talks to merge and form one international leader in online poker, sports betting, and casino gambling.

Amaya, headquartered in Quebec, and London-based William Hill, said the two sides have been reviewing their individual options. According to a joint statement, the potential merger would be classified as a reverse takeover with William Hill, the smaller of the two companies, assuming control of Amaya.

“The potential merger 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,” the statement explained.

While the British sports bookmaker would assume control of Amaya, the two companies stressed that the prospective unification would be a “merger of equals.”

Amaya purchased PokerStars in 2014 for a staggering $4.9 billion. The vast majority of the online poker platform’s current revenues stem from its Isle of Man and Malta offices, but the company remains optimistic on the US internet gambling market.

Baazov Folds

The Amaya board seems to be actively pursuing buyout offers since its founder and former CEO David Baazov resigned from the gaming conglomerate in August.

Baazov, who founded Amaya in 2004, is at the center of an ongoing insider trading case being brought by the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), Quebec’s securities regulator. The AMF believes Baazov distributed confidential information on his company’s activities to outside investors in exchange for financial kickbacks.

In addition to costing him his job at the company he founded, the AMF case is also likely responsible for the termination of Baazov’s attempts to take the company back private.

In February, Baazov and a group of unidentified investors, made a nonbinding proposal to purchase Amaya and its subsidiaries including PokerStars for $2.8 billion in an all-cash deal. But the official offer never came, and the subsequent AMF allegations perhaps made Baazov’s team fold.

Headed for the William Hill

Should Amaya and William Hill join forces, the new organization would be one of the most powerful interactive gaming units in the world. But the unification attempts shouldn’t come as a surprise.

William Hill has been actively pursuing partners to revamp its underperforming online entities. The British company ousted its CEO James Henderson in July, and fought off takeover attempts from 888 Holdings and Rank in August.

Bringing Amaya’s PokerStars to its portfolio would arm William Hill with a tried and tested internet platform.

Mergers and acquisitions are the name of the gaming game in 2016. To stay competitive in the developing interactive gambling worldwide industry, independent outlets believe they need to unite to keep pace.

This year, GVC Holdings completed its $1.6 billion purchase of bwin.party, the operator of the partypoker brand in New Jersey.

Other gaming companies, GVC included, have looked at Amaya but its ongoing case in Kentucky might prevent a future deal. A judge in the Bluegrass State says PokerStars owes the state $870 million in damages for operating there after the 2006 passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).

Amaya says it didn’t own PokerStars during the period in question, and therefore isn’t responsible.

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