Gambling Industry Acquisitions, Mergers and Financial News — Weekly Round-up for January 25, 2019

By Brian Cullingworth, Last updated Jan 25, 2019

FDJ Pleased With Growth in FY 2018 Results

Driven by investment in digital

French online betting and gaming firm FDJ Group has reported a 4.4 percent increase in total stakes to Euro 15.817 billion in 2018 driven by continued investment in digital channels and a strong World Cup.

Digital channels contributed Euro 2.4 billion to total stakes, up 45.5 percent over 2017.

Sports betting broke the Euro 3 billion barrier delivering growth of 21 percent over 2017 driven by record betting on the World Cup which generated Euro 333 million in sports betting stakes, up 75 percent compared to the last World Cup in 2014. Without World Cup, sports betting grew 8 percent.

Online sports betting delivered a 60 percent increase to reach Euro 1.8 billion.

Lottery was up 1.1 percent to Euro 12.8 billion.

Online lottery grew 12 percent.

Retail stabilised with a reported 4 percent increase in growth in 2018.

FDJ distributed Euro 10.7 billion in winnings to customers, a return rate close to 68 percent, up almost 1 percent over 2017.

Stéphane Pallez, President and CEO of the FDJ Group:

“The continued growth in bids reflects the successful execution of our FDJ 2020 strategy, focusing on areas such as digital and innovation, which enhance the attractiveness of our games and distribution channels.”

FDJ’s 2020 strategic plan allocated Euro 500 million in investments until 2020 of which Euro 400 million has been spent to date, and Euro 100 million in 2018 alone.

Looking ahead, FDJ said its strategy of innovation and personalised marketing campaigns will continue.

Zeal Shareholders Back Lotto24 Deal (Update)

60 percent approve pre-conditions for all-share takeover

Despite Lottoland’s best efforts, 60 percent of Zeal Network SE shareholders approved the preconditions for the planned takeover of Lotto24 AG in a general meeting on Friday.

Dr Helmut Becker, CEO, ZEAL, said: “Our plan to reunite ZEAL and Lotto24 offers a fantastic opportunity for sustainable growth and creates significant value – for shareholders of both companies, customers and the German Federal States and their lottery beneficiaries.

“We are pleased that ZEAL’s shareholders share our vision and today approved the important preconditions which now enable us to make our offer for Lotto24.

“We look forward to launching our offer to Lotto24 shareholders shortly and to bringing our organisations together. The combination of ZEAL and Lotto24 will create the leading private digital lottery broker in Germany, setting us up for strong growth in Germany and internationally.”

In addition, shareholders voted to waive the requirement on Günther Group (which will own more than 30 percent of the combined group after completion) to make a full takeover offer for ZEAL.

Shareholders voted 51 percent in favour of the waiver. Günther Group were not able to vote on this particular resolution.

William Hill Trading Statement Warns Of 15 Percent Decline On 2017

Feels the impact of enhanced customer due diligence measures in Online and US Expansion costs

In a trading statement for the unaudited 53 weeks ended January 1, 2019, William Hill PLC said the Group’s full-year adjusted operating profit1 for 2018 from continuing operations is expected to be cGBP 234 million, c15 percent down on 2017.

“This is in line with guidance, which was for 2018 operating profit to be in the range of £225m-£245m,” the company said attributing the decline to enhanced customer due diligence measures in Online, US expansion and challenging retail environment associated with wider high street conditions.

Philip Bowcock, CEO, commented:

“2018 was a pivotal year for both William Hill and the wider industry. We now have greater clarity around the key challenges and opportunities for our business.

“In 2019 we will remodel our Retail offer while building a digitally-led international business, underpinned by a sustainable approach as part of our Nobody Harmed ambition.

“With rapid expansion underway in the US, building on profitable foundations, and the acquisition of Mr Green nearing completion, we look forward to making further progress this year.”

The Group’s 2018 final results will be announced on Friday, 1 March 2019.

William Hill Completes MRG Shareholder Offer

Currently holds approximately 92 percent of shares in MRG

William Hill has announced the completion of the recommended cash offer to MRG shareholders, now retaining around 92 percent of the company shares.

The bookmaker has extended the acceptance period to January 31, 2019 allowing remaining shareholders opportunity to accept the Offer based on the updated information.

William Hill intends to request an extraordinary general meeting to be held in MRG in order to appoint a new board of directors that reflects the new ownership structure. William Hill will also call for compulsory acquisition of the remaining shares in MRG in accordance with the Swedish Companies Act (Sw. aktiebolagslagen (2005:551)) and intends to act in favour of having the MRG shares de-listed from Nasdaq Stockholm.

Brian Cullingworth

Infopowa news was a staple of Casinomeister’s news from 2000 until 2019. Brian Cullingworth was the main writer, contributor, and was one of the most knowledgeable persons I have ever known involved in the online casino industry.

We first met in January 2001 at the ICE in London where I observed him going booth to booth interviewing online casino, software, and licensing jurisdiction representatives. Brian was also heavily involved with our forum as “Jetset“, he was involved as an informal consultant to eCOGRA, the OPA, and was a player advocate who assisted countless aggrieved players with his connections to industry folks. He also published “Casino Cautions” via Infopowa news for quite a number of years. These can be found in our news archives.

His passing in February 2019 was a dark day for us. He will be forever missed.

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