A Chinese consortium has agreed to acquire the Israeli Playtika, Caesars Interactive Entertainment’s online games unit, for $4.4 billion in cash.
Playtika makes its games such as Bingo Blitz and Slotomania available on Apple App Store. Playtika will continue to operate independently with its own management team and its headquarters remaining in Herzliya, Israel, following the deal, the companies said.
Playtika players use virtual currency that cannot be exchanged for real money, although players can spend money by buying items in the games. Caesars’ World Series of Poker and real-money online gaming businesses are not part of the deal, according to the companies.
The consortium which includes game developer Shanghai Giant Network Technology and e-commerce company Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma will buy Caesars Interactive Entertainment from Caesars Acquisition (CAC) and Caesars Entertainment Corp. The sale will be a boon to the two affiliated companies, which are looking for cash as they embark on a complex merger.
The deal follows a period of exclusive negotiations between Caesars Interactive Entertainment and Giant’s consortium that were first reported on July 21 by Reuters. Caesars Entertainment’s main operating unit, Caesars Entertainment Operating Co. (CEOC), is currently involved in an $18 billion bankruptcy and is seeking creditor approval for a restructuring plan. The transaction between CAC and the Caesars Entertainment parent is part of a complex web of deals that have come under scrutiny by CEOC’s creditors.
Chinese companies are eager to expand beyond their home country, which boasts the world’s largest online gaming market. In June, Tencent, China’s biggest gaming group, agreed to buy a majority stake in Clash of Clans mobile game maker Supercell from SoftBank in an $8.6 billion deal.
Giant is one of China’s biggest gaming companies, with nearly 50 million monthly active users and several top-grossing mobile titles. It was taken private in 2014 for $3 billion by a group of buyers that included company chairman Yuzhu Shi and private equity firm Baring Private Equity Asia. It is now valued at more than $12 billion.
The Chinese consortium involved in the deal also includes Ma’s private equity firm Yunfeng Capital, China Oceanwide, China Minsheng Trust, CDH China HF Holdings, and Hony Capital Fund, the companies said.
The merger between the owners of Caesars Interactive Entertainment is intertwined with the bankruptcy of CEOC, whose restructuring plan hinges on billions of dollars of cash and equity from its parent.
CEOC’s creditors have accused the parent company of looting choice assets from its operating unit and leaving it bankrupt. Caesars has said the acquisitions were done at fair value. While proceeds from a Caesars Interactive online games unit sale will help the bankruptcy estate, junior creditors may still object to the distribution of the funds because more money will end up in the hands of first lien banks and lenders. — Reuters