In recent days, Party Gaming and bwin announced merger plans to form a giant gambling group that could become effective toward the end of the first quarter of 2011. The merger, which had long been rumored before the companies signed an implementation agreement in July, is expected to create the world’s largest listed online gambling business.

The new company will operate worldwide with its existing brands under the name of Digital Entertainment plc in which current bwin shareholders will hold a 51.6% stake, while current Party Gaming shareholders will hold 48.4%. Both bwin and PartyGaming will retain most of the core of their brands, but will be operated under the new umbrella company, which will be based in Gibraltar and listed on the London Stock Exchange. Party Gaming will keep its main headquarters in Gibraltar, while bwin will continue to operate from Austria.

The companies issued a 478-page document to shareholders on Thursday giving a detailed outline of the planned merger. Shareholders will vote on the merger at a joint annual general meeting on January 28th. Should the general meetings of both bwin and Party Gaming approve the merger, all shareholders holding bwin stock when the merger is effective will receive 12.23 Party Gaming shares denominated in GBP for each bwin share.

“The online gaming industry is going through a phase of consolidation, making market players’ size and geographic diversification more crucial than ever,” said Norbert Teufelberger, Co-CEO of bwin. “Our products and target markets complement one another perfectly, and we can continue to expand our technology lead in all key product segments: sports betting, poker, casino, bingo, and games.”

According to the document, the merger would create a business with unaudited net revenues of €696.2 million, unaudited clean EBITDA of €193.7 million, unaudited profit after tax of €99.4 million, and unaudited net assets of €1.27 billion after consolidation adjustments for the year 2009.

Jim Ryan, Chief Executive Office of Party Gaming, will join Teufelberger to become Co-Chief Executives of the merged company. Current bwin Co-Chief Executive Manfred Bodner will become a Non-Executive Director on the Board of the enlarged group. Said Ryan, “This is a transformational opportunity for both our companies to create the world’s largest listed online gaming business. With market-leading positions in poker, sports betting, casino, and games, the enlarged group will have a winning formula to exploit the growing online gaming market, supported by a strong balance sheet, significant cash flow generation, and a highly experienced management team.”

The merged company will continue to focus on business-to-consumer products, an area in which it enjoys considerable strength. However, because of the financial gains added through the merger, the company will also encroach into business-to-business and business-to-government endeavors. Teufelberger explained, “Our many years of online know-how, healthy balance sheet, and one of the largest pools of poker liquidity in any regulated market will make us an attractive business partner.”

There will also be focus on regulated and newly opened markets, as the company intends to make plans to enter the U.S. market if and when the current situation changes for the better. In 2006, bwin stopped taking bets from U.S. residents due to the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Party Gaming, which operates the popular online poker room PartyPoker, followed shortly thereafter.

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