ibraltar-based 888 is in the “advanced stages” of a small acquisition and in a “very early” position for a larger one, Levy said in a telephone interview. “I do believe 2010 is the year we will see one of these,” he affirmed. “Once somebody goes ahead, it will happen very quickly.”
Last month, Austrian online bookmaker Bwin Interactive Entertainment AG said it’s in talks with PartyGaming Plc about a possible merger that would create a us$ 4 billion market-value company. Other European Web gambling companies are seeking to grow quickly as restrictions are relaxed, so they are well placed if the US legalizes online gambling, Levy said.
“The synergies between any two big operators would be around us$ 40 million to us$ 50 million,” he said, adding that 888 is also seeking smaller acquisitions that might cost more than us$ 10 million.
888’s fourth-quarter profit rose 14 % as it added customers and they wagered more. Operating income climbed to us$ 68 million from us$ 60 million in the year-earlier period, the company said in a statement.
Operating income per customer rose 5 % from the third quarter for poker and casino games and 888 is “very sure” of growth this year, Levy said. He cited a 52 % increase in new customers in the first five weeks of this year. 888 rose 0.7 % in London trading. The shares have fallen 6.8 % this year, giving the company a market value of us$ 563.5 million.