Chinese investor group buys Caesars' mobile games biz for $4.4B

Led by online games company Shanghai Giant Network Technology, the consortium acquires Playtika for US$4.4 billion in an all-cash transaction expected to close by year-end.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

A group of 11 Chinese investors has bought out Caesars Interactive Entertainment's mobile gaming business, Playtika, in a deal worth US$4.4 billion.

Led by China's online games company Shanghai Giant Network Technology, the consortium includes Alibaba's private equity subsidiary Yunfeng Capital, China Oceanwide Holdings Group, and China Minsheng Trust.

Under the all-cash transaction, Playtika would continue to operate independently and from its headquarters in Herzliya, Israel, with its current management team intact to run daily operations. The mobile games developer also has offices and studios in Australia and Japan, among others, and was itself acquired by Caesars Interactive Entertainment (CIE) in 2011.

Expected to close by year-end, pending regulatory approval, the deal would not include CIE's World Series of Poker and real-money online gaming businesses.

Playtika described itself as the "first to introduce free-to-play casino-style games to social networks", with a portfolio that included Slotomania, Bingo Blitz, and Vegas Downtown Slots.

Its co-founder and CEO Robert Antokol said of the deal: "This transaction is a testament to Playtika's unique culture and the innovative spirit of our employees who for the past six years... We are incredibly excited by the commercial opportunities the consortium will make available to us, particularly in its ability to provide us access to large and rapidly growing emerging markets."

The Israeli company has more than 1,300 employees and 6 million daily users across 190 countries. It clocked revenues of US$456 million in first-half 2016 and US$725 million last year.

While CIE also saw its 2015 revenue climb 30.6 percent to US$785.5 million, its main group Caesars Entertainment Operating currently is sorting out a US$18 billion bankruptcy. Playtika generated more than half of the digital unit's revenue, pushing US$198.8 million.

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