Gambling on a possible £2bn-plus merger in the world of online gaming proved a favourite pastime for excited punters.
Shareholders of PartyGaming hit the jackpot as the shares shot up to 297.7p and closed 16.7p higher at 2851/2p after Bwin, Europe's biggest online betting and gaming group, revealed it is in merger talks with the Gibraltar-based online gaming giant.
Bwin said the talks are 'no indication' that there will be a merger while PartyGaming grudgingly added it is in talks with a 'number of companies' about consolidation and discussions are at 'a preliminary stage'. However, as far as professional speculators are concerned, it would be a marriage made in heaven and a deal must be on the cards.
PartyGaming was once the most valuable publicly traded gambling stock in the world when it was worth £6.4bn in August 2005, after floating at 115p in June of that year. The US Department of Justice's clampdown on internet gambling in 2007 then trashed its valuation as did some controversial share sales by its founder directors.
It is now back on the recovery track and a recent statement revealed that trading since the end of September 2009 has been solid, with a return to sequential revenue growth. It has also announced an exclusive five-year agreement to provide an online gaming platform for poker and casino games in Denmark for Danske Spil.
Back in November all the industry gossip was about a possible Bwin offer for 888 Holdings, 4.9p better at 116p. 888 appears a harder nut to crack as brothers Avi and Aaron Skaked own 50pc of the equity through family trusts. Another pair of brothers, Shay and Ron Ben-Yitzhak, control a further 11pc.
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