Friday, March 24, 2017

Amaya Gaming open to acquisitions

Montreal Gazette:

In his first year as chief executive of online gambling company Amaya Inc. (TSX: AYA), Rafi Ashkenazi has made careful moves. Now his appetite for risk is growing.

Promoted after founder David Baazov stepped down amid insider trading charges and poor earnings performance, Ashkenazi has focused on paying down debt, installing a new management team and lessening the company’s exposure to the unstable online-poker business. His pragmatic style of management has helped him regain investors’ confidence, with the stock up 31 per cent since he took the helm as interim CEO last March.

This summer, the world’s largest online-poker company will have money to spend after finishing paying for its $4.9-billion purchase of sites PokerStars and Full Tilt, a deal struck in 2014 under Baazov. That means the Pointe-Claire company will be on the hunt for deals.

“We are very open to acquisitions generally,” Ashkenazi, 42, said in an interview at an Amaya office outside Toronto. He’s now recruiting someone to focus on M&A, with the “highest priority” on sports betting.

Amaya was my highest conviction pick last year and I continue to like the company. There was turmoil inside the company last year as the founder David Baazov was embroiled in an alleged insider trading scheme. Baazov left as CEO last year and has been replaced by new management that is focusing on managing and maximizing the company businesses.

It looks like the market liked the recent earnings and the track the company is on.

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