Entain Investors Told that MGM has Eyes Only on BetMGM

US casino giant MGM Resorts will not be making a bid for the whole of Entain as the pressure from activist investors on the UK group’s CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen shows few signs of easing following last week’s Financial Times reports of shareholders moving against her.

According to sources close to the group, the US casino giant is “not interested” in bidding for the whole of the UK group and instead will swoop for the outstanding 50% of the BetMGM joint venture that Entain holds when the UK group is eventually sold.

Bad blood

Nygaard-Andersen was appointed in January 2021 after Shay Segev’s surprise move to DAZN and while Entain was in the midst of negotiations over a potential sale to MGM. That a sale to MGM did not happen at the time does not mean the US group will not put another offer forward, but only for the 50% of the BetMGM joint venture that Entain holds.

Since then, a number of issues have led to a souring of relations between the two parties: the failed MGM bid and ongoing BetMGM ownership issue, the recent launch of BetMGM in the UK, while before that the UK group launched bwin and Sports Interaction in Ontario in direct competition with BetMGM. Those relations are understood to be beyond repair.

Whenever MGM does bid for the 50% of BetMGM it doesn’t own, its ongoing wish to own 100% of the JV’s revenues and tech stack will be the key. The brand was one of Entain’s few bright spots in Q3 and is expected to be EBITDA-positive in 2023.

Pressing matters

Of more immediate concern are the three US hedge funds that have been increasing the pressure on Nygaard-Andersen. The FT said shareholders had “lost faith” in her and in recent months two UK hedge funds have shorted the group, with positions worth £25m.

This summer’s €750m buyout of Poland’s leading bookmaker STS for which Entain raised €600m in shares was the moment hedge fund investor Ricky Sandler of Eminence Capital decided to go public with his discontent. That deal came at the end of a run of 11 bolt-on acquisitions by Entain over the past two years, including BetCity in the Netherlands for €550m and SuperSport in Croatia for €690m.

The mood at Entain is also unhappy and recriminations are flying around, with its M&A teams understood to feel like they are being blamed for the many deals they concluded at the behest of senior management. Rumours of vast expenses from some senior executives could also surface in the next few days, piling even more pressure on the group.

On Friday the group confirmed it had agreed a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that should draw a line under the investigation into its “legacy” Turkish-facing business. Judicial approval of the DPA, which relates to alleged bribery “activities of former third-party suppliers and employees” in Turkey, is scheduled for 5 December.

The group sold the division in 2017 and announced this summer that it had agreed to pay HMRC a £585m financial penalty (plus £30m in costs and donations) over the next four years.

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