888 Holdings said it made a proposal to buy Bwin.party Digital Entertainment, starting a contest with GVC Holdings for the online gaming company.
A deal would have "significant industrial logic," 888 said yesterday, days after London-based GVC said it submitted a proposal to acquire Bwin.party, whose online gaming brands include partypoker, partycasino and FoxyBingo.
Bwin.party rose 6.6pc to 106 pence at 9.03am in London, extending Friday's 11pc gain that was prompted by news of GVC's proposal. That boosted the company's market value to £873m (€1.2bn), more than 888's £585m, and GVC's £281m.
The interest from 888 and GVC may be just the start of a race for control of Bwin.party, which was formed by a 2011 merger. Bwin.party chief executive officer Norbert Teufelberger has been considering a sale since at least November, when the company said it was in early talks with several parties.
"All eyes will be on other potential bidders such as Amaya to see whether they will enter the race for Bwin.party," Gavin Kelleher, an analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers in Dublin, said in a note.
Canadian gaming company Amaya became the biggest player in the €3.5bn a year global business of online poker last year when it acquired PokerStars for €4.3bn.
Bwin.party said its board and advisers are conducting a detailed review of the proposals from 888 and GVC. There's no certainty of a transaction being completed, the company said.
888 said its proposal comprises cash and shares and would require investor approval due to its size. Shareholders with a combined 59pc stake are in favour, it said.
888 shares fell 3.2pc to 164.25 pence in early London trading.