Macquarie-led group in bid for Australian gaming giant

WEB_PHOTO_TABCORP_141216

File: The logo for Australian gambling company Tabcorp Holdings Ltd (TAB) is displayed outside a TAB branch in central Sydney, Australia, October 18, 2016.

File: The logo for Australian gambling company Tabcorp Holdings Ltd (TAB) is displayed outside a TAB branch in central Sydney, Australia, October 18, 2016.

WEB_PHOTO_TABCORP_141216

File: The logo for Australian gambling company Tabcorp Holdings Ltd (TAB) is displayed outside a TAB branch in central Sydney, Australia, October 18, 2016.

File: The logo for Australian gambling company Tabcorp Holdings Ltd (TAB) is displayed outside a TAB branch in central Sydney, Australia, October 18, 2016.

SYDNEY – A consortium led by Australian investment bank Macquarie on Wednesday made a surprise $5,5-billion (R75,2bn) bid for casino group Tatts, throwing into question a planned merger between the gambling giant and rival Tabcorp.

Tatts Group said it was assessing the unsolicited offer from the consortium – which includes First State Superannuation Scheme, North Haven Infrastructure Partners and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co – although its directors were still supportive of the Tabcorp merger.

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Tabcorp and Tatts announced in October they were combining forces to create a powerhouse taking bets on horse racing and sports events across the country.

"Tatts has not yet formed a view on how the indicative proposal (from Macquarie) compares to the proposed Tabcorp merger," Tatts said in a statement.

"The Tatts board and its advisers will assess the indicative proposal including its terms, underlying financial assumptions and conditions, and will provide a further update on the outcome of that review as soon as practicable.

Shares in Tatts closed 8,45 percent higher at Aus$4,49 on Wednesday.

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Under the Aus$7,3bn proposal, Tatts is valued at between Aus$4,40 and Aus$5 a share. The Tabcorp merger valued Tatts at Aus$4,34 per share.

No comment was immediately available from Macquarie.

Tatts Group has a betting shop network in the states of Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania and also operates a lotteries business.

Tabcorp Holdings runs similar operations in Victoria and New South Wales, and has a broadcasting and media arm built around Sky Racing.

Both companies also compete in online gambling.