Playtech Sets January 5 Deadline For JKO Play

The bidding war for Playtech continues with JKO Play potentially throwing its hat into the ring. Playtech set the company a January 5 deadline

The bidding war for London Stock Exchange-listed Playtech is heating up. Australian firm Aristocrat Leisure thought it had a deal sewn up, but it thought wrong. JKO Play made a late play for the gambling software company, although it is yet to make a formal bid.

JKO Play is a consortium led by former Formula One team owner Eddie Jordan and his business partner Keith O’Loughlin. It registered an interest in acquiring Playtech late last month.

“The Eddie Jordan Family office and Keith O’Laughlin note this morning’s announcement by Playtech and confirms that a consortium led by them, called JKO Play, is evaluating making a competing offer for the issued and to be issued share capital of Playtech Plc.”

“JKO Play emphasises that this announcement does not amount to a firm offer under Rule 2.7 of the Code and there can be no certainty that any possible competing offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which it might be made.”

Who Are JKO Play?

JKO Play first became known in July 2021. Keith O’Loughlin stepped down from his role as a senior executive of Scientific Games Corporation amid rumours about JKO Play’s interest in purchasing OpenBet. O’Loughlin, a friend and business partner of Jordan, was formerly the executive vice president of OpenBet.

No formal bid for OpenBet came from JKO Play, although it was prepared to pay US$1 billion. Endeavour paid US1.2 billion for OpenBet, using $1.0 billion cash and US$200 million Class A shares.

A statement on the JKO Play website reads:

“JKO Play has been established to pursue investment and acquisition opportunities in the gaming sector.”

“It combines direct and related sector expertise with entrepreneurialism and is backed by a consortium of private individuals, family offices and institutions. JKO Play is led by Eddie Jordan and Keith O’Loughlin with deep experience of transforming, developing and marketing technologically innovative businesses.”

Playtech Sets Concrete Deadline

Playtech wants any deal putting over the line sooner rather than later. It knows Aristocrat is willing to acquire the company, so set JKO Play a concrete deadline to log a bid.

“JKO Play must, by 5:00 pm on 5 January 2022, being the seventh day prior ro the date of the shareholder meetings, either announce a firm intention to make an offer for Playtech under Rule 2.7 of the Code or announce that it does not intend to make an offer for Playtech.”

“This deadline will cease to apply if, before that time, a third party other than JKO has announced a firm intention to make an offer for Playtech under Rule 2.7.”

The announcement is essentially a put up or shut up warning to Jordan and O’Laughlin. The company declined to comment on the deadline.

Billionaire Hong Kong Heiress Causes Confusion

Playtech mentioned a possible third party and the press believes Karen Lo to be a potential suitor. Lo, the billionaire heiress to Vitasoy, a Hong Kong-listed drinks giant, owns 5% of Playtech. Lo is well-known in Hong Kong high society and is the granddaughter of Dr Lo Kwee-seong, founder of Vitasoy.

Companies listed on the London Stock Exchange report, by law, shareholders with significant holdings. Lo has actively sought Playtech shares, paying upwards of £7.50 per share. This puzzles market analysts because Playtech accepting Aristocrat’s offer would see Lo lose a large sum.

Other prominent Hong Kong-based investors have been busy buying Playtech shares above the offer price. Tang Hao and Stanley Choi have substantial holdings. In addition, Paul Suen holds more than 4.1% of Playtech’s stock. Suen holds shares in British Championship football team Birmingham City Football Club. Furthermore, Suen has a large stake in Les Ambassaduers casino in London.