Czech Gambling Group SAZKA Shelves London IPO Plans in Nightmare Week for LSE

A nightmare week for the London Stock Exchange continues as SAZKA Group puts listing on ice due to market volatility
Czech lottery and betting operator SAZKA Group has iced plans to float on the London Stock Exchange, citing market’s volatility as the reason behind its decision. The announcement arrived as the latest of a round of bad news for the stock exchange.
SAZKA first announced its flotation intentions last fall. The group hired Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and J.P. Morgan Cazenove as global coordinators. The company reportedly planned to use its London listing to spearhead its bid for UK’s National Lottery license. Local lottery group Camelot currently holds said license, but it is set to change hands in 2023. The UK Gambling Commission is expected to commence preparations for the bidding process at some point in 2019.
SAZKA said in a statement to the Press Association that the “volatile market environment” and a number of other uncertainties were the reasons behind its decision to put its London flotation on hold. News about SAZKA’s IPO derailing emerged just as Aston Martin marked a horrific debut in London, closing nearly £1 below its float price on its first day on the London Stock Exchange.
The Czech lottery group added in its statement that IPO plans could be revived once market conditions improve and “there is greater clarity over these and other uncertainties”.
SAZKA was not the only major European gambling company to have recently considered London listing. UK online sports betting giant Sky Betting & Gaming indicated such plans early this year. However, it had to shelve these as it agreed to be acquired by Canada’s The Stars Group in April. The deal is set to create the largest publicly traded online gambling company.
Growth through Major Acquisitions
SAZKA is one of Europe’s biggest gambling groups. Companies the group owns stakes in annually take more than €16 billion in bets, according to official financial statistics. Aside from its domestic Czech market, SAZKA also operates in Italy, Austria, Croatia, Greece, and Cyprus.
Most recently, the company acquired a controlling stake in Croatia’s largest land-based and online sports betting operator SuperSport. The deal included the possibility for the Czech group to increase its shareholding to 100% in the coming years. Earlier this year, SAZKA also extended its shareholding in Casinos Austria to 34% through a subsidiary.
In 2016, the Czech gambling group purchased a 32.5% stake in Italian lottery operator Lottoitalia. In addition, SAZKA also owns a 72% stake in a fund that owns a controlling stake in Greek betting and lottery giant OPAP.
Group CEO Robert Chvatal has previously said that the Czech group has been considering different options to support its growth in future, and an IPO, product innovations, customer experience in the online sector and geographical expansion have been among the options considered.
SAZKA recorded revenue growth of 177% last year as a result from the consolidation of OPAP’s operations. The company reported revenue of €1.13 billion for the entire 2017, while earnings rose 165% to €353.4 million and after-tax profit jumped 105% to €189.5 million.
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