Market Briefs - 10-14 September 2007

17 September 2007

Inspired Suitor Named

Following Friday's announcement from Inspired Gaming regarding a £270 million takeover approach, Iceland-based FL Group (FL) confirmed shortly thereafter that it was the suitor. The international investment group reiterated that it was not certain that it would make a formal offer and would issue further news about the deal in due course. FL is already a 10 percent shareholder in the company.

Inspired Beneficiaries

The Times carried a report on the deal, noting that the three executives behind Inspired are in line for an estimated £40 million payout if the takeover offer goes ahead. Co-Chief Executives Luke Alvarez and Norman Crowley along with Co-Chairman Russell Hoyle were each awarded roughly 3.4 million share options when the company floated in June 2006--worth around £13 million, each. The paper quoted one analyst as saying that the stock had more than doubled since the flotation and that the company had "done a very good job for shareholders."

Goodbody Says Add Paddy

In a research note published Monday, analyst Liam Igoe of Irish brokerage Goodbody maintained his "add" rating for Paddy Power after the London-listed company posted a record operating profit ($54.4 million) last week.

Interims from Sportech

Sportech has released interim results, which show a pre-tax profit of £5.2 million, down 14 percent compared to H1 2006. The company said profits were nonetheless in line with expectations. Despite the loss, it said, updates to its "backbone technology" via deals with Scientific Games and Orbis would strengthen its technical capabilities. "We are transforming Sportech and making good progress implementing the changes necessary to realize the company's potential to become a significantly larger broad-based sports, leisure and gaming business with international reach," said Sportech CEO Ian Penrose.

ITV Announces Cutbacks

After last week's partnership agreement between ITV and PartyGaming was announced, ITV said Tuesday that it would eliminate jobs as the company transitions from a growth model to a "content-led growth plan." ITV Chief Executive Michael Grade told the Times that, "inevitably, there will be job cuts, but it is not helpful at this stage to throw about numbers." The commercial broadcaster, struggling to reverse slumping advertising sales, reaffirmed its target of claiming a 38.5 percent share of advertising reach among viewers for its family of ITV channels in 2012. As part of its strategic plan to expand Web offerings (and thereby lure advertisers), the paper says, the company has committed to developing and its gambling agreement with Party.

Tackling the Decline

After Tuesday's release of interims from Sportech, The Financial Times suggested that its strategy--which includes launching new games, distribution agreements and technology solutions--could "help tackle the historic decline in pools." The paper said however that the company is "having to work hard" to slow and ultimately prevent the decline in its customer base. Analysts at Investec told the paper that the shares are trading on a "forward" price-to-earnings ratio of 8.3 times, "which is at a justifiable discount to the gambling sector."

Q3s from Chartwell

Chartwell Technology has released unaudited third-quarter results, which show revenue up 11 percent to $5.3 million, compared to $4.7 million in Q3 2006. EBITDA for the quarter was $1.1 million against $1.0 million last year. The Toronto-listed company said it continues to maintain a strong balance sheet through positive cash flow and positive working capital. At July 31, the company reported $14.1 million in cash and short-term investments.

VC Appoints New Marketing Director

Victor Chandler has appointed Carl Bridge as marketing director, who will take up his post before the end of September. Bridge previously headed customer marketing at Virgin Money.

Former Cantor CEO Joins WagerWorks

Former Cantor Gaming Chief Executive Tom Kenny has joined IGT subsidiary WagerWorks as commercial director. "I am pleased to join WagerWorks at such an exciting time in the company's development," said Kenny.

£2 Million Sale

The U.K. media reports that Talarius-owned is for sale. The site, founded in 2001, is valued at £2 million and is consistently ranked by Hitwise in its top ten for the United Kingdom. 14 buyers have reportedly expressed interest.

Strong Interims from Lottomatica

Lottomatica has released half-yearly results, which show revenues up 145 percent to 835.5 million euros, including a sizeable 427.7 million euro contribution from its Rhode Island-based Gtech operation. Operating income for the period totaled 239.4 million euros, up 53 percent against figures from the previous year, while net income was up 113 percent to 68.1 million euros. "We are pleased with the results of our first semester," said Lottomatica Chief Executive W. Bruce Turner. "The fundamentals of our business continue to experience positive growth. The company said it expects full-year revenue to total between 1.665 and 1.765 billion euros, and EBITDA between 700 and 710 million euros.

Arena Says All's Well

U.K.-based horseracing operator Arena Leisure said initial attendance at the 2007 Ladbrokes St. Leger Festival was in line with expectations. The festival, which commenced Sept. 12, follows a 20 month redevelopment program that included a £34 million investment in Doncaster Racecourse, which hosts the Ladbrokes St. Leger, the world's oldest classic horse race. In April, the company said attendance in the first part of 2007 had remained softer than expected but added that prospects for the summer months looked "encouraging."