Companies enter into trading halts ahead of a merger announcement to be made Wednesday
Speculation around a possible Tatts-Tabcorp merger in Australia was confirmed Tuesday when the two gambling giants entered into trading halts ahead of a merger announcement to be made on Wednesday.
The potential consolidation comes just weeks before the spring racing carnival and has already attracted comment from an official of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, who expressed concerns over the possible partnership and the impact on online gambling that it may have.
According to local media reports, the Victorian provincial government has already indicated that it is prepared to consider approval for the merger.
"We're aware of this morning's announcement by Tatts Group and Tabcorp Holdings regarding the re-commencement of merger talks, and we'll consider any proposed merger and implications for Victoria when more information is available," a spokeswoman said.
Both companies hold separate licences in Victoria and it is unclear whether one of the cost savings of the merger would be cancelling one of those licences, and whether the Act would allow for a change of control of the licence.
The Sydney Morning Herald pointed out that this is the second time that Tabcorp and Tatts have moved toward a merger, noting that last year the companies abandoned talks after failing to reach agreement on the terms.
In their announcements to the Australian Securities Exchange on the trading halt, the two companies advised:
"The trading halt is requested pending the outcome of discussions in relation to a potential change of control transaction pursuant to a scheme of arrangement that is under consideration by Tabcorp."
A merger could generate annual synergistic savings of the order of A$80 to A$100 million, but could involve cuts in staffing levels, analysts have predicted.
It could also open up new revenue streams through shared customer databases, and would create a more powerful platform for overseas ventures, they say.
Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, commented on the proposed merger and its possible creation of a A$10 billion gambling giant, saying that his organisation is concerned, and would be looking at the role of online gaming in potentially competing with a merged Tatts and Tabcorp.
"'Clearly there's a lot of overlap between what Tatts and Tabcorp do," Sims said, adding: "I probably don't know the industry well enough to know the extent of it. So on the overlap issue there's major concern."
Sims said the ACCC would have to consider the extra competition that the merged entity would face from fast-growing foreign owned online gaming rivals.
"We have to weigh up how much that new online competition is sufficient to constrain this new merged entity. That's going to depend on breaking into certain markets. There's markets for online gambling, there's markets for offline gambling, there's markets for clubs who get involved in certain activity. So it's quite a detailed matter, and it's only just come in this morning," Sims said.
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