December 13,2011 : BWIN.PARTY TRADING UPDATE REVEALS ONGAME POKER SALE AT AN ADVANCED STAGE
Europe's largest online gambling group on target for year end, and has been re-buying its stock
Bwin,party.digital entertainment, the online gambling behemoth formed by the merger of Bwin and Party Gaming earlier this year, has released a trading update containing interesting developments within the group, including:
• Revenue performance since the end of September in-line with management’s expectations
• Continuing Clean EBITDA margin for the full year 2011 expected to be between 22 percent and 24 percent
• 14 million shares repurchased this year as part of the group’s ongoing buy-back programme at an average price of 126p per share
• Integration on-track to deliver approximately Euro 40 million of annualised synergies in 2012 and Euro 65 million in 2013
• Sale of the Ongame poker software developer and network at an advanced stage
Management reports that the group’s licence applications for Spain were submitted on 25 November 2011 and it is expected that approvals for sports, casino, poker and bingo products will be issued in the first wave of licences to be issued ahead of the market opening in 2012.
In Denmark, the group's licence applications were lodged on 17 October 2011 and Management expects to be among the first group of operators to become licensed to offer online poker, casino and sports at the beginning of January 2012.
In Germany, there are still questions surrounding how deep and effective market liberalisation will be. The next meeting of the Minister Presidents [the heads of the 16 German provinces] is due to take place on 15 December 2011.
The province of Schleswig-Holstein has stated its intention to press ahead with its law to regulate and license all forms of online gaming with a 20 percent tax on gross gaming revenue. Schleswig Holstein’s law has already been approved by the European Commission, and Bwin.party is hoping that the other 15 Länder [provinces] will revise their proposal.
These provincial states may choose to press ahead with their current plans, which the group believes fail to comply with EU law or meet the requirements set out by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
"Whilst we welcome the move to regulate the online gaming market in Germany, this must be in a consistent and coherent manner in-line with EU law that also enables licensed operators to compete effectively with black market operators," Management asserts in the trading update.
"Any other approach, if sustained, will create a commercially unviable market and result in consumers being driven outside the regulated framework."
Management also addresses developments in the United States, outlining current political initiatives to regulate internet poker at both a federal and a state level.
"Which route will reach the statute book first and when remains unclear, but we remain optimistic that regulation will take a step forward in 2012. Either way, through our agreements with MGM and Boyd, the group is well-positioned to take advantage of any such opportunity," Management notes.
The group's Euro 75 million share buy-back initiative appears to be progressing well since launch in September this year. A total of 13,970,335 shares at a total purchase price of GBP 17.6 million (Euro 20.8 million), with an average price of approximately 126p per share have been acquired, and all purchased shares have been cancelled.
The report concludes with a note that the proposed sale of Ongame's B2B internet poker business has attracted a number of interested parties. Management advises that the sale process is at an advanced stage but is unlikely to be finalised before the end of the year.