The SAZKA Group, one of Europe’s largest and most successful lottery operators, has completed its acquisition deal with Novomatic Group, one of the largest international technology providers and operators in the gaming industry, for its stake in Casinos Austria (ASAG). The group has purchased the Novomatic Group’s 17.19% outstanding shares making it the majority shareholder with a total stake of 55.44%. This acquisition was first announced back in December 2019 and has brought an end to the two group’s 3-year equal management of Casino Austria.
Upon the deal’s announcement, both groups admitted that their joint control did not lead to significant business growth, and because of this, both groups decided that it would be better if Casinos Austria was led by a single leading shareholder. Novomatic agreed to sell its shares to SAZKA Group as it has a smaller stake in the business. SAZKA agreed to acquire 23,323,179 of Novomatic’s shares. It cost them €9.12 per share, amounting to €212.7 million for this acquisition alone. It was able to secure €105 million financing via its subsidiary, CAME Holding GmbH. From this purchase, the SAZKA group has a total of €2.06 billion worth of outstanding shares invested in Casinos Austria.
The acquisition was then followed by an agreement between SAZKA and Österreichische Beteiligungs AG (ÖBAG), a state-run holdings company, often characterised as Austria’s National Wealth Fund, whereby, its main function is administering Austria’s investment activities in partial or entirely nationalised companies. To date, it administers 11 state investments valued over €19.38 billion. The agreement entails that both entities are responsible for jointly managing Casinos Austria.
Earlier this year, ÖBAG, of which partly owns 33.20% stake of Casinos Austria, had come under fire from Austrian political parties. This was because it did not use its pre-emption rights to oppose SAZKA’s bid to secure the majority stake of the shares. Instead, it waived its rights to do so. The majority of the criticism was from the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ). They were critical of SAZKA’s motives as they have been given free rein over Austria’s National lottery and it has been able to do so without any regulatory oversight nor commitment to Casino Austria’s 3,000 employees.
This prompted the Austrian Finance Minister, Gernot Blüme, to inform the public that the governing Austrian Peoples Party (ÖVP) would satisfy all stakeholders by delivering a packaged deal. It has also been reported that ÖVP instructed ÖBAG to allow SAZKA to purchase the majority stake by waiving their pre-emption rights.
SAZKA Group’s chief executive officer, Robert Chvatal, looks forward to increasing the value of Casinos Austria through their leadership, and ultimately benefiting their customers, employees, and the Austrian society. Their commitment to protecting the ‘Osterreichische Lotterien’ is done so by jointly operating Casino Austria lottery unit for 15 years, whereby SAZKA cannot service nor operate competitors to the Austrian National Lottery. Even with the acquisition, Casinos Austria will maintain its headquarters and operations in Vienna along with its business and employees.