June 21, 2024

PokiesWHEN you’re 92 years old and sitting on a gold mine as a pokies magnate, the only thing you want to do is cash it in.

But that has become a whole lot tougher for Ainsworth Game Technology boss Len Ainsworth, whose hopes to complete a deal that would see Austrian gaming giant Novomatic purchase his 53 per cent stake in the company for $2.75 per share.

That doesn’t sound like much, but it is understood to amount to somewhere in the vicinity of $473 million.

Not bad dosh if you can get it.

Any way, poor old Ainsworth wants his fill, without minority shareholders getting a taste.
Shareholders are peeved and the consumer watch dog is not happy.

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has taken the unusual step of challenging the sale, arguing before the Takeovers Panel that Ainsworth’s wife Gretel, who is a minority shareholder in the company, should not be allowed to vote on the deal because of their obvious association.

It is understood Mrs Ainsworth’s vote could play a pivotal role in deciding whether or not the deal goes through.

She holds an 8.9 per cent share in the company and there is a fight to stop her from voting by minority shareholders at an extraordinary meeting, scheduled for June 3.

It’s board has recommended the deal go through, but that can only happen if more than half the minority owners vote in favour.

ASIC said in its application to the Takeovers Panel that Mr and Mrs Ainsworth “have a relevant agreement or are acting in concert in connection with the share sale transaction and accordingly Mrs Ainsworth is an associate of Mr Ainsworth and should be excluded from voting in favour of the share sale transaction”.

ASIC is seeking final orders that require Mrs Ainsworth not vote in favour of the share sale transaction, not dispose her shares prior to the meeting and that AGT issue a supplementary notice of meeting disclosing the association of Mr and Mrs Ainsworth.

It is reportedly only the 12th time since the year 2000 that the consumer watchdog has referred a case to the Takeovers Panel.

It is understood shareholders are unhappy that Ainsworth did not attempt to lock in the same deal for them as part of the takeover.

Novomatic is the second largest poke operator in the world.

Ainsworth has slightly changed his tune since he told the Australian Financial Review on February 28 this: “If someone wants to get a conglomerate together and make an offer, well they are not going to get very far if they can’t lay their hands on my 53 per cent stake plus another 10 per cent holding which my wife has. It’s very tightly held so they’d be spinning their wheels.“

If the deal is rejected by the Takeovers Panel, it could force Ainsworth to either hold onto his shares, or attempt to broker a broader deal with Novomatic that would open up the $2.75 per share price to all interests in the company, which would obviously represent a much fairer result.

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