OFT clears Danoptra Deal and Terroni joins
Astra Games Limited has confirmed that, following clearance from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) given on 3rd July 2012, the purchase of trade and assets of the Danoptra Group companies Gamestec Leisure, Bell-Fruit Games, RLMS Sales and Mazooma Interactive Games has now been formally concluded.
The conclusion of this transaction, which began with initial discussions back in 2009, now creates an Astra UK Gaming Group, that, based on 2011 reported figures, has a total turnover of £79.68 million and £15.73million EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation) and employs a total workforce of 1,042. Throughout the lengthy period of discussion and negotiation Astra Games Limited was ably represented by Mr. Aled Walters, partner in Cardiff legal practice MLM Cartwright.
Each of the four ‘acquired’ companies will maintain their individual identities – being some of the most respected and iconic names in the UK gaming industry – and will conduct themselves with their existing staff and in a ‘business as normal’ manner.
The Astra UK Gaming Group will be managed by a five man Board of Directors. Zane Mersich, Managing Director of Astra Games since 2008, will become the Group’s CEO and will be joined by John Austin (Managing Director, Bell-Fruit Games), Chris Butler (Managing Director of Gamestec), Neil Paramore (CFO) and Paul Terroni, who moves from Danoptra to take up the role of Business Development Director within the new entity.
Now backed by the huge resources of the Novomatic Group a Technology Committee covering all aspects of the Astra UK Gaming Group will be established. To be chaired by Astra’s Game Design Director and Board member Andy Dinning, this committee will be responsible for directing new innovations in both analogue and digital gaming products and creating an overall policy of strategic research and development across all companies within the group.
THE OFT SUBMISSION PROCESS
As a wholly owned subsidiary of the Novomatic Group Astra Games Limited has progressed this transaction in full accordance with Group policy. This meant a full compliance with all relevant legal requirements, together with a full and complete due diligence process and, because of the significance of the proposed transaction to the wider UK gaming industry, a voluntary submission being made to the UK Office of Fair Trading.
Astra’s voluntary OFT submission was made on 17th April, 2012 and was open to written representations on any competition or public interest issues, a process that Astra Games both welcomed and supported. One area of intense discussion has been the UK gaming industry’s wish to see Astra continue to develop, manufacture and support analogue gaming machines. Astra has frequently repeated its total commitment to the future development of both analogue and digital gaming equipment for the continued benefit of the UK industry and reinforces that commitment now. Welcoming the OFT’s statement of clearance on July 3rd Zane Mersich, Managing Director of Astra Games Ltd., noted: “All of us involved in the process of bringing together Astra and Danoptra understand the importance, for the wider UK gaming industry as well as just the parties directly involved, of a deal that will now safeguard iconic industry names and the employment that they provide. We look forward now with great confidence and in the belief that the group of companies that we have created under the Astra banner will, from the outset, play a leading role in the development of the UK gaming industry.”
The ASTRA UK GAMING GROUP: COMPANY PROFILES and QUOTES
Astra Games Limited (based in Bridgend, South Wales) is the wholly owned subsidiary of Austria’s Novomatic Group, one of the world’s largest integrated gaming groups, that was founded in 1980 and which today employs more than 18,000 staff around the world and is the leading European producer of high-tech gaming equipment.
Astra itself was founded in 1992 by a group of gaming industry entrepreneurs from within the gaming industry enclave that still exists to this day in South Wales. In the autumn of 2004 the Bridgend-based company consolidated its position as a major force in the international gaming industry by becoming a subsidiary of the world-renowned Novomatic Group of Companies. From the start, Astra has continually broken new ground in gaming machine design. The company pioneered the multiplayer concept, followed by sit-down multi-players and video multiplayer products. And despite being much imitated, Astra machines remain market leaders.
Zane Mersich, CEO, continued: “To understand and appreciate the significance of the Astra UK Gaming Group one needs look no further than the recent history of Astra itself. When Novomatic acquired a majority shareholding in Astra back in 2004 it was against a background of promised investment and resources deployment. On 29th November 2007 Astra proudly opened its new headquarters facility, Astra House, and moved into an entire new phase of groundbreaking innovation. With the acquisition of the Austrian internet gaming pioneer company Greentube in 2010 Astra provided what is now the third ‘leg’ of the Novomatic business: adding online gaming entertainment to Novomatic’s previous strategy of duality in manufacturing and land-based operations.
In the spring of 2011 Astra added to its portfolio a majority shareholding in Empire Games, a respected name in the UK gaming industry but a company that was starved of investment. All of these companies, not the least of which is Astra itself, have been able to grow and develop thanks to the investments made by Novomatic in finance, technology, organisation and secured management. Without doubt, this will now be mirrored in the development of Bell- Fruit Games, Gamestec, RLMS Sales and Mazooma Interactive Games.
My personal satisfaction at the conclusion of this deal is that we have grown Astra by a well considered acquisition and, in the process, have secured over 1,000 UK jobs and given some of the most iconic company names in the UK gaming entertainment industry their chance to shine once again. I look forward to the future with excitement and anticipation and I hope and believe that the many stakeholders in what has been a industry hard pressed of late by economic circumstance will see the opportunity to move forward in partnership with us towards a brighter, sustainable, future.”
Dr. Franz Wohlfahrt, CEO Novomatic AG added: “Following the take-over of Astra Games in 2004 and Empire Games in 2011 this major acquisition in the UK brings to our group a true domestic market in the gaming industry’s home country. We are convinced that the synergies generated through the cooperation of the various companies will not only secure jobs but will also provide important impetus for our global growth as a group as well as for our business strategy that is traditionally based on the duality of business activities as a producer and as an operator.”
Bell-Fruit Games combines experience with creativity to give the very best in quality, service and innovation.
The track record of Bell-Fruit Games during over 40 years in the industry is second to none. Focusing on the core skills of technology and games design, served by a flexible and efficient manufacturing facility, ensures that Bell-Fruit Games continues to deliver world class standards of performance.
Bell-Fruit Games Ltd (BFG), known originally as Bell-Fruit Manufacturing Co. Ltd, was formed in 1963 and quickly gained a reputation as a leading designer and manufacturer of gaming machines for the UK. 1999 signalled a distinct change of emphasis when the company focused its strategy on the design, development and manufacture of games, concentrating on the design and development process. In line with this re-alignment of focus to creative design, the company changed its name to Bell-Fruit Games and, under the new structure will become Bell-Fruit Group.
In the UK, the company is the leading player in AWP, Club Jackpot and SWP markets, both in traditional and video networked technologies, and enjoys a high reputation for constant innovation. From its established Nottingham base the company, which is immediately associated with its famous three bells logo, develops new games for European and other international markets, and employs almost 200 people.
Bell-Fruit Group aims to be known and recognized as a centre of excellence and innovation that consistently generates more successful games than any other company in the UK and Europe. In order to achieve its objectives the company is committed to recruiting and developing the best people and supporting their innovation with efficient, responsive manufacturing and marketing operations.
Bell-Fruit Games Managing Director, John Austin, was forthright in commenting on the completion of the Astra acquisition: “This is great news for BFG, its staff, customers and the industry it serves. Great News because being part of Novomatic, a globally leading group in the gaming machine market, provides us with the benefits of an owner who understand the issues around this particular market and is able to provide the investment we very much need to take us forward with new developments and emerging technologies as well as offering synergy with their products and technologies. I have said on numerous occasions in the past that ownership of any business in the design and manufacture of gambling machines is infinitely better in the hands of major players in the global market than banks or PLCs who know little about the market and its needs.”
Gamestec, the UK’s No. 1 for electronic entertainment
Gamestec is the largest gaming and amusement operator in the UK, providing services for over 35,000 machines in 10,500 locations and employing almost 700 people nationwide. Gamestec has over 50 years of experience and expertise in the industry, which enables the company to deliver outstanding, tailored, services to answer the industry’s specific needs and to help boost cash-in-box profits.
Only Gamestec can offer the very best range of gaming equipment and amusement products, as selected from the industry’s leading manufacturers – and back up that equipment with an outstanding level of service and support. Gamestec works with a huge variety of products across a vast range of markets, and strives to offer the highest level of quality in both products and service to each and every customer.
As the undisputed UK market leader, Gamestec’s expertise spans a broad spectrum of market sectors. The company provides a high standard of service to companies large and small – ranging from national chains to local independents.
Gamestec’s Managing Director, Chris Butler underlined the importance of the company’s new position within the Astra UK Gaming Group. He said: “Gamestec have had the benefit of a close working relationship with Astra and the Novomatic group of companies for nearly two years now. I have personally found both teams to have worked well and closely to deliver the innovation that we now refer to as iPub™. It has been a fantastic project that has now started to deliver results; on the premise of maximising the potential of new and existing customers in pubs. This is only the start! With our new situation and with the benefit of sustained investment, we have only scratched the surface of our future potential.
Innovation has never been more important as we seek to compete within the various gaming opportunities that are now open to customers: both in and out of venue.
The completion of the Astra deal is fantastic news for all the people at Gamestec. The massive improvements that we have been making with can now progress at full speed and we can look forward to delivering the solutions that the UK industry really needs.
RLMS Sales: Making the Difference
RLMS Sales has been making a difference in the Gaming and Amusement industry for over 30 years. It is a key player in the distribution of innovative world-class products and prides itself on excellent knowledge and service.
With its vast range of brand leader products, the dedicated RLMS team will ensure customers are offered the very best products on the market at competitive prices.
This is an exciting time for new products and RLMS Sales aim to make the very best available to our customers.
Managing Director Phil Boulton continued: “It’s fantastic news that this has finally gone through. For RLMS Sales, to be part of Astra and the Novomatic Group can only strengthen our position as one of the leading UK distributors for gaming machines. Whilst we have a long history in our own right, to be part of a Group which brings with it iconic brands such as Bell Fruit Games and Astra Games, and the investment which we hear our new owners are committed to providing, has provided both a degree of security and a sense of excitement for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead within our sector. Indeed, since early in the consultation phase, all of the team at RLMS, without exception, have eagerly awaited this completion. As a distributor, we wish to remain loyal to our other manufacturer partners with whom there has been mutual support over the years. Long may this continue. We will be strengthening our sales team, whilst widening our portfolio and I believe, going forward, that we will have an even more compelling offer of the best reel based and digital machines available to all sectors of the market. Combined with the relationships and high level of customer service ethic that we have, the completion of this deal must be a win-win as far as RLMS and our Customers are concerned. ”
MAZOOMA: Providing the player with the ultimate gaming experience
Always striving for innovation, Mazooma Interactive Games (MIG) works in partnership with a wide range of valued customers across all sectors in the UK and abroad to develop profitable games across a variety of digital platforms.
Established 15 years ago, Mazooma has a rich pedigree in designing games that provide the player with the ultimate gaming experience. Innovation is the key driver behind our game concepts and we constantly strive to bring new features to the player, for example: through our latest online Community games.
Originally from a land-based background, Mazooma has more recently focused its attention on providing digital content to the internet gaming sector, to bookmakers and also to export markets in Italy and South America. With its in-house team of developers Mazooma concentrates on delivering innovative gaming solutions and adding real value to our partners.
The Managing Director of Mazooma Interactive Games, Tony Oliver enthused: “The assets acquisition from the Danoptra Gaming Group will enhance the customer experience for our retail partners, through investment in people, products and technology, and so continually improve our player entertainment experience. What does the deal mean to MIG?
I believe that the deal will provide access to online platform technology, experience and R&D resource that will help expand our business and chosen markets.
What does MIG bring to Astra? MIG will complement the growing product share in the LBO and bingo sector. In the online market, MIG has access and reach to new potential operators as well as an established portfolio of unique and innovative content.
FROM THE START
The starting point for what then became a three year process of discussion and negotiations came from Astra recognising that the fast-changing times in the UK gaming industry presented opportunities to build on the its already existing relationships with Danoptra Group companies Bell-Fruit Games and Gamestec.
Paul Terroni, now the newly appointed Business Development Director of the Astra UK Gaming Group, reflected on that process and expressed his satisfaction by saying: “The completion of this deal marks the end of an historical journey that commenced in 2009 and brings together many skills, talents, and an experienced team of individuals from the gaming businesses of the Danoptra Group with the equally talented team from Astra Games, in what I consider to be one of the most significant and important developments that has occurred in the UK gaming business for many years. The natural synergies of both businesses will create a formidable new group that will spearhead the development of the gaming sector.
For all the four companies involved, this deal will enable them to progress their business objectives, and turn them into reality.
I am personally delighted to have been involved in this project right from the start and now to be here at completion. I look forward with extreme confidence that the enlarged group will now be able to invest and grow their market sectors with the added benefit that being part of the Novomatic Group will bring.”
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