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JKO Play withdrawal clears Aristocrat’s path for Playtech takeover

JKO Play has officially withdrawn from the Playtech takeover race, in a decision which clears the way for Aristocrat after Australian-listed gaming manufacturer tabled a £2.7bn proposal in October 2021.

Prior overtures had also been teased by Gopher Investments, a 4.97 per cent shareholder that purchased the group’s Finalto service division in December, a move that met one of the key conditions of Aristocrat’s prospective buyout of the firm.

However, one month earlier it was confirmed that JKO, led by former Formula 1 team owner Eddie Jordan and ex-Scientific Games executive Keith O’Loughlin, had become a third potential suitor of Playtech, as reports swirled that a £3bn counterbid could be in the pipeline. Gopher withdrew its acquisitive interests one day after JKO’s intentions became clear.

Earlier this month, after it was confirmed this week that a Playtech shareholder meetings to approve the Aristocrat offer would be adjourned to February 2, 2022, JKO received an extended deadline to announce a firm intention to make an offer or withdraw. This was set at 5pm on January 26, 2022, from its prior cut-off point at the same time on January 5, 2022.

Despite rumours swirling that the group had secured financial backing in its pursuit, JKO, a 0.51 per cent shareholder in Playtech, has now confirmed that it “does not intend to make an offer”.

However, under note two on rule 2.8 of the ‘Takeover Code,’ JKO reserves the right to set the restrictions aside in a number of circumstances.

These are with the agreement of the Playtech board, if a third party announces a firm intention to make an offer, if the gambling tech firm announces a whitewash proposal, or if there has been a material change of circumstances.

Despite this mooted interest, Aristocrat has consistently remained the frontrunner to secure any potential transaction after making its move, with its offer that values the company at £2.7bn, or 680 pence per share, a 58 per cent premium on its closing price during the week prior to making its initial offer.

If successful in acquiring the company, Aristocrat has voiced an intention of leveraging its new Snaitech division to ‘operate and innovate’ in Europe, whilst also aiming to boost its revenues, expand its customer reach and provide material scale in online gaming. It has previously been suggested that the deal could close during the second quarter of 2022.

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