Gopher withdraws from Playtech bidding war

Gopher Investments has withdrawn from its pursuit to acquire Playtech Plc, confirming that it will propose no counteroffer to investors of the FTSE250 gambling technology group.

The Hong Kong investment vehicle that maintains a 5% shareholding in Playtech, had previously stated its intent to table a counteroffer against the £2.7 billion deal put forward by ASX games manufacturer Aristocrat Leisure.

Advised by Rothschild-&-Co, Gopher was reported to be reviewing its options on tabling a £3 billion counteroffer to trigger a bidding war against Aristocrat’s ‘board recommended’ takeover offer.

Gopher bid withdrawal follows Playtech receiving a further preliminary approach from third suitor JKO Play a consortium led by former Formula 1 team owner Eddie Jordan and Keith O’Loughlin, ex-Scientific Games, evaluating a competing offer.

The consortium is working with US private investment firm Centerbridge Partners regarding the provision of institutional debt and structured capital funding, with media reports suggesting that a £3bn counterbid could be in the offing.

The company is said to be “seeking access to certain due diligence information in order to explore terms on which an offer for Playtech by JKO might be made”.

Playtech noted that “discussions with JKO are at an early stage and there is no certainty that JKO’s approach will result in a firm offer for Playtech, nor as to the terms on which any firm offer may be made”.

Gopher’s bid withdrawal has cleared a deal hurdle for Aristocrat, that must guarantee a sale of Playtech financial brokerage Finalto as a caveat of its offer.

“Today’s announcement has no bearing on Gopher’s agreement to acquire Playtech’s financial trading division, Finalto. Gopher remains fully committed to the acquisition,” a media statement declared. “The process is ongoing and is expected to complete in H1 2022.”

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