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Tabcorp, Tatts revive merger speculation

AAP logoAAP 18/10/2016 Prashant Mehra

Wagering giants Tabcorp and Tatts Group have revived the likelihood of a merger that would create a $9 billion gambling behemoth, less than a year after first failing to reach a deal.

Shares in the two companies were placed in a trading halt on Tuesday, with both companies requesting the suspension in separate statements to the ASX, pending "discussions related to a potential change in control".

The development follows a confirmation by the two companies in November 2015 that they had held confidential talks on combining operations to form a $9.4 billion gaming giant, but couldn't agree on terms.

The combination of the two companies would give them more muscle in taking on foreign online wagering firms such as William Hill, Ladbrokes and bet365, that are gradually taking market share in Australia.

Tabcorp operates TAB outlets in Victoria, NSW and the ACT, and online betting platform Luxbet. Its shares last traded at $4.89, giving the business a market value of $4.08 billion.

Tatts Group, which gets most of its revenues from lotteries, operates in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Its shares closed at $3.59 on Monday, giving the company a valuation of $5.27 billion.

The pair reported a combined profit of $403 million for the 2015/16 financial year.

Recent dealmaking by both Tabcorp and Tatts Group to beef up their operations had revived speculation the pair could revisit their merger plans in order to stave off overseas rivals.

Tabcorp in August acquired ASX-listed gaming technology firm Intecq for $128 million, while Tatts Group said the same month it was in exclusive talks to buy Victorian and New Zealand gaming machine monitoring business Intralot.

Shares in the two companies are expected to resume trading on Wednesday or following the announcement of a transaction.

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