Friday December 12,2014 : SURPRISE VISIT TO AMAYA GAMING BY CANADIAN POLICE AND FINANCIAL AUTHORITIES
Major investigation into insider trading in progress?
Reports in the respected publication Forbes indicate that a posse of Canadian police and financial investigators made "unannounced" visits this week to the Montreal head office of the Amaya Gaming company, which recently paid $4.9 billion to acquire Pokerstars parent Rational Group.
Entities involved in the visits included the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Autorité des Marchés Financiers, a financial market regulator.
Forbes reports that investigators also visited insurance giant Manulife Financial and investment bank Canacord Ingenuity, apparently as part of the same enquiry.
Canaccord Genuity underwrote the Amaya-Rational Group deal along with Cormark Securities and Desjardins Capital Markets. Canaccord and Deutsche Bank were lead advisors, and Canaccord agreed to purchase US$130 million of convertible preferred shares of Amaya.
Eleven days later, it upped the private placement offering to US$180 million, citing additional demand and bringing the total gross proceeds from the issuance to US$1.05 billion.
The authorities have released little in the way of detail on the enquiry, fuelling speculation that the investigation concerns insider trading. Forbes quoted a Autorité des Marchés Financiers spokesman as confirming the investigation was centred on Amaya, but that he could not at this stage disclose any further details.
Pokerstars spokesman Eric Hollreiser was also cautious, responding to media enquiries by advising that whilst Amaya was cooperating with the authorities he could not comment further.
In later developments, Amaya issued a statement late Thursday in which it denied any wrongdoing but confirmed that the authorities are looking into events concerning the Rational Group takeover. The company said that it was monitoring the enquiry, which has so far had no impact on business operations or employees.
Industry observers have speculated that the intense interest in Amaya stock running up to the acquisition may have triggered an investigation, but that has not been confirmed.
Amaya’s shares have gained 341 percent over the last year to date, and closed Thursday at $35.06, up $0.22. Manulife Financial’s shares closed up $0.07 to $21.66, and Canaccord Genuity closed up $0.03 to $7.33.
In November, Amaya beat expectations as its adjusted profit increased 10-fold to nearly $70 million for the period ended September 30. Revenues were $239 million, up from $38.6 million a year earlier .
This Wednesday, the firm paid a quarterly dividend of $0.05 per common share and a special dividend of $0.05 per common share.