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A&O and Freshfields win big on 888’s £900m purchase of Bwin after bidding battle

Magic Circle duo Allen & Overy (A&O) and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer acted as the bidding battle for online gambling company Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment came to an end today (17 July) with 888 beating GVC to acquire the FTSE 250-listed rival for £898m.

The two bidders extensively competed to acquire the gaming company in recent months as the gambling industry continues to consolidate because of increased taxation. 888, which is smaller than the target being valued at £570m, won out over its AIM-listed competitor despite GVC’s higher bid of 110 pence per share, or £907m, and its backing from Canadian gaming company Amaya Gaming.

A&O acted for 888 led by corporate partners Ed Barnett and Annabelle Croker while financing advice was provided by partners Denise Gibson and Jake Keaveny with partner James Roe on capital markets matters. The City office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom picked up work from one of the founding shareholders of 888 with a team led by M&A partner Michal Berkner.

Meanwhile, Freshfields took on the work from Bwin with corporate partners Christopher Mort and Piers Prichard Jones working on the deal. Freshfields also advised on the 2010 merger that created the present company but acted for Party Gaming with Clifford Chance advising Bwin on that deal.

The winning offer gives Bwin shareholders 39.45 pence in cash and 0.404 new 888 shares per share and values the online gambling company at a 16.4% premium on the closing price in May when Bwin first entered talks with its potential suitors.

The two companies’ board said that by combining both businesses, they ‘anticipate that the enlarged group will benefit from significantly enhanced scale, an enhanced product offering and significant cost and revenue synergies’. The boards added that the combination will save at least $70m per annum (before tax) by the end of the 2018 financial year.