The Italian gambling market could be in for some heavyweight operator consolidation, according to the Financial Times this week. The respected business newspaper reported that the Euro 48 billion market is witnessing a takeover attempt of Snai, the country’s biggest horse race betting shop operator.
The attempt comes from arch rival, Sisal, which is owned by UK private equity groups Permira and Apax Partners.
Snai, which is struggling under a Euro 250 million debt burden, has confirmed that it has received several expressions of interest, including approaches from Italian private equity houses Clessidra and Investindustrial, who plan to merge Snai with Cogetech.
The FT reports that last year, Snai was close to being acquired by a buy-out consortium made up of the UK’s Bridgepoint and France’s Axa Private Equity, which entered exclusive talks to buy the betting group, but these collapsed at the last minute, with Bridgepoint and Axa suing Snai for damages after the Italian company rejected their bid and opted instead to refinance its debts through a bond issue.
According to the FT report, Italy’s gaming market is the second biggest in Europe and is expected to grow by between 4 to 6 percent annually over the next five years.
Snai operates 900 branded betting shops and more than 2,500 smaller gambling stalls, and has a current market capitalisation of about Euro 330 million.
Acquiring Snai could be a major coup for Sisal. The former boasts a market share in Italian sports betting of around 35 percent, whilst Sisal holds about 10.2 percent and is reportedly negotiating further acquisitions in the form of sports book and poker room Betting 2000