London-listed Playtech announced that it is selling its 10% stake in online trading platform Plus500 Ltd.
The shares, totaling 11.4 million, were sold at £1.55 per share, for a total of approximately £176 million ($227 million), which the gaming software provider said “will be used for general corporate purposes and debt reduction.” The company assured shareholders that the sale would not affect the issuance of the interim dividend announced by Plus500 last August 13, which totals about $16 million.
The Playtech sale comes just a day after the founders of Plus500—Alon Gonen, Gal Haber, Elad Ben-Izhak, Omer Elazari and Shlomi Weizmann—announced the sale of 9.4 million shares, which was half their remaining stake and about 8% of all shares issued, for £145 million ($187 million), reportedly for personal reasons. Last March, the founders had already sold 7.27 million shares, or about 6% of issued shares, for £80 million ($103.2 million), also for personal reasons.
Back in 2015, Playtech had been negotiating for a takeover of Plus500, ready to spend £460 million ($593.4 million) for the acquisition, but plans fell through when the UK Financial Conduct Authority blocked the purchase. The agency was reportedly concerned about ownership of shares by Playtech founder Teddy Sagi, who was convicted for major stock fraud in the 1990s. Sagi holds a 6.3% stake in company.
Playtech has been expanding its operations outside of the gray and black markets of Asia, where added regulatory oversight and crackdowns have led to “disappointing market conditions,” according to Playtech Chairman Alan Jackson. The company recently purchased Italian gaming operator Snaitech, while its subsidiary Playtech BGT Sports also inked a deal for the installation of self-service betting terminals in Mexico. The company has also expanded sports-betting operations in Portugal, partnering with operator Sociedade de Apostas Sociais.
Playtech posted a revenue of $506 million for the first half of 2018, 4% higher than last year. When not counting Asian markets, its revenue from January to June was up 35% year on year.