Montreal-based Amaya Inc. (NASDAQ: AYA; TSX: AYA), the owner of PokerStars, the world’s largest real-money online poker network, said its review of strategic alternatives is active and ongoing, amid rising revenues, EBITDA and net income.
Barclays Capital Canada Inc., the company’s financial advisor, has contacted a range of strategic and financial parties who might be interested in a transaction involving Amaya, the company said. Amaya is the world’s biggest publicly listed online gambling company.
Several parties, including David Baazov, considered the “king of online gambling” who is on a leave of absence as chairman and CEO of Amaya, have received management presentations and are conducting due diligence.
In late March the company said that “Baazov is taking this leave voluntarily to focus on preparing an offer to acquire Amaya and to avoid a distraction for the company while he responds to certain allegations made against him by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), the securities regulatory authority in Quebec.”
GSO Capital Partners, the credit arm of private equity firm Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX), holds a stake of 19.99% in Amaya, resulting from a cashless exercise of warrants a month ago. GSO was a major financial backer of Amaya’s $4.9-billion buyout of Oldford Group Ltd and its Isle of Man-headquartered Rational Group Ltd, the owner and operator of the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker brands, in August 2014.
“Amaya remains focused,” said Rafi Ashkenazi, Amaya’s interim CEO. “During the first quarter, we continued to execute on our growth plans despite unexpected challenges, including management changes and the ongoing strategic alternatives process.”
The company’s total revenues for the first quarter ended March 31, 2016 increased 6.0% year-over-year to $288.7m, EBITDA rose 8.7% to $123.4m, and adjusted net income rose 26% to $85m.
“We attracted new customers to PokerStars, continued to introduce changes to improve the overall poker experience, expanded our online casino offering and continued to invest in our emerging online sportsbook,” he added.
Meanwhile, Baazov and Amaya’s CFO Daniel Sebag, have advised the Board that they will not be standing for re-election as directors at the company’s upcoming annual shareholders meeting.
Amaya is a leading provider of technology-based products and services in the global gaming and interactive entertainment industries. Amaya owns gaming and related consumer businesses and brands including PokerStars, Full Tilt, BetStars, StarsDraft, the European Poker Tour, PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, Latin American Poker Tour and the Asia Pacific Poker Tour.
These brands have more than 100 million cumulative registered customers globally and collectively form the largest poker business in the world, comprising online poker games and tournaments, live poker competitions, branded poker rooms in popular casinos in major cities around the world, and poker programming created for television and online audiences.
Amaya, through certain of these brands, also offers non-poker gaming products, including casino, sportsbook and daily fantasy sports.
Amaya and its group companies have various gaming and gaming-related licenses or approvals throughout the world, including from the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Spain, Estonia, Belgium, Denmark, Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Romania, the Isle of Man, Malta, the State of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, the Provinces of Quebec and Ontario in Canada, and the State of New Jersey in the United States. The company was founded in 2004, it has nearly 2,000 employees, and a market capitalization of CAD 2.62 billion.
Photo: David Baazov, former Chairman and CEO of Amaya.