Eddie Jordan group withdraws from Playtech acquisition race

JKO Play Limited, the acquisition entity set up by former Formula 1 owner Eddie Jordan and ex Ladbrokes executive Keith O’Loughlin, has issued a brief statement that it is does not intend to make an offer for Playtech (LON:PTEC).

The Eddie Jordan group emerged as a potential bidder for online gaming and financial services company Playtech in late November, after Playtech had agreed to be acquired for 680p per share, or a total of £2.1 billion, by Australia based gaming concern Aristocrat Leisure Ltd (ASX:ALL). Playtech shares have consistently traded well above the 680p level since the original Aristocrat deal was announced in mid October, indicating that shareholders expect a higher bid to emerge – either from Aristocrat itself, or from a competing bidder.

A Playtech shareholder vote to approve the 680p Aristocrat offer is currently set for February 2.

For its part, Playtech’s board put out a brief statement confirming JKO’s withdrawal from the process, and stating that it continues to recommend unanimously that Playtech’s shareholders vote in favour of the offer from Aristocrat on February 2. The board noted that it continues to seek engagement with all of its shareholders regarding the Aristocrat offer.

However, a number of material investors have not to date engaged meaningfully about their views on the Aristocrat offer, including certain investors that have disclosed or taken material positions in the company following the announcement of the original Aristocrat offer. The absence of customary levels of engagement means that the Playtech board is approaching the shareholder vote without a clear understanding of whether these shareholders are supportive of the Aristocrat offer.

What this seems to mean is that quite a number of shareholders have bought in to Playtech recently, at prices well above the 680p per share Aristocrat offer. And it is doubtful that they would now approve a transaction to sell at the lower (680p) price, putting the result of the February 2 shareholder vote in jeopardy.

It will be interesting to see how Playtech shares react to the news when trading on the London Stock Exchange opens later this morning.

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