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Partygaming mulls a £2bn tie with Bwin

ONLINE poker group PartyGaming is understood to be in talks with Austrian rival Bwin Interactive Entertainment about a potential £2bn tie-up.

PartyGaming is believed to have held “on-off talks” since the summer with Vienna-based Bwin about a possible “merger of equals”.

The firm is thought to be keen to grow in sports betting, a sector in which Bwin is particularly strong.

The Takeover Panel was expected to ask PartyGaming to clarify the position before the market was due to open today, it was reported yesterday.

PartyGaming refused to say anything. “We will not comment on rumour,” a spokesman said. Bwin was unavailable for comment.

Gibraltar-based PartyGaming, led by chief executive Jim Ryan, has been involved in growing consolidation in the gaming industry.

In August, PartyGaming agreed to buy the World Poker Tour for $12.3m and in July it bought online bingo business Cashcade, which owns the Foxy Bingo website, for up to £95.9m.

PartyGaming billionaire co-founder Anurag Dikshit set up the group in 1997 and developed its user-friendly technology and it entered the FTSE 100 after floating in 2005 at a value of £5bn.

Dikshit sold most of his remaining 28 per cent stake in PartyGaming in October. An online gaming ban in the US, which outlawed the industry in 2006, forced the firm and its rivals to shut their lucrative American operations. PartyGaming did a deal in April with the US to protect it from prosecution.