Online bookie group to reconsider cash bid for IAS

The attempted hostile takeover bid launched by Australian online sports betting group Centrebet International Limited against fellow Aussie firm International All Sports (see previous InfoPowa reports) seems to have hit an obstacle that may require it to reassess its cash bid following a Takeover Panel ruling this week.

The independent Panel became involved when Centrebet requested that it make a declaration of 'unacceptable circumstances' over impediments to its bid, which is reportedly worth Aus$11.8 million and would create an online sports and race wagering company with nearly 125 000 direct customers.

The Panel was asked to release Centrebet from standstill and confidentiality undertakings that were put into place after it was provided with confidential information about IAS for the purpose of acquiring the business in April 2008. It declined to go ahead with a bid at that time and the IAS board subsequently took the company off the selling block.

Centrebet claimed that the undertakings were "beyond what is necessary" to protect IAS, and instead frustrated the ability of Centrebet to effect a genuine takeover. In the event, the Panel ruled against the Centrebet submission, arguing that standstill agreements are useful in enabling price-sensitive information to be given to other potential buyers.

The Panel stated that the standstill period could be negotiated to November 2009, which would be twelve months after the date CentreBet withdrew from the asset sale process.

Graham Kelly, Centrebet's chairman, said the company was very disappointed by the ruling. "'We were simply seeking to ensure that IAS's shareholders were given the opportunity to consider for themselves what we think is a compelling offer and, if necessary, negotiate with the independent directors of IAS a final offer price and other terms that would secure their support," he said.

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