Apollo Considers Higher Offer for Canadian Casino Owner

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Apollo Global Management Inc. is mulling an increase to its $2.5 billion takeover bid for Great Canadian Gaming Corp. but may walk away from the deal if it can’t win approval at an upcoming shareholder meeting, according to people familiar with the matter.

The private equity firm has been contemplating its strategy because the C$39-a-share offer has run into opposition from some of Great Canadian’s largest shareholders. At the same time, Apollo is wary of overpaying because of the risks the pandemic poses to the gaming industry, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private negotiations.

Great Canadian shares climbed 1.4% to C$36.88 as of 9:48 a.m. on Monday in Toronto.

Apollo indicated during negotiations with the company in August that it was considering an offer of C$38 to C$41 per share, according to documents filed with securities regulators. A revised bid would likely stay within that range, one of the people said. A representative of New York-based Apollo declined to comment.

Great Canadian said last week it’s temporarily shutting another casino because of Covid-19 orders by the government of Ontario, leaving 19 of its 26 properties closed.

Apollo Considers Higher Offer for Canadian Casino Owner

Apollo’s price for Great Canadian came under fire soon after it was unveiled last month, with shareholders including BloombergSen Inc. and Burgundy Asset Management Ltd. publicly opposing the deal. The investors say the offer undervalues the company and takes advantage of the drop in the share price since the pandemic disrupted Great Canadian’s operations.

Great Canadian shares traded as high as C$45.80 in February and closed at C$36.38 on Friday. The stock has fallen the past two weeks amid pessimism that a deal will be done.

Deal news website CTFN reported last month that holders have said any price less than C$70 a share won’t be acceptable.

Apollo isn’t willing to go that far because the Covid-19 pandemic may have permanently impaired some of Great Canadian’s value, the people said. The firm would rather walk away from the deal if it’s not approved by shareholders at a Dec. 23 meeting than overpay, they said.

Representatives of BloombergSen and Burgundy didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. A representative of CI Financial Corp., another large Great Canadian shareholder, declined to comment. BloombergSen is a Toronto-based hedge fund that owns almost 14% of Great Canadian, according to regulatory filings. It isn’t affiliated with Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

Apollo has previously defended its offer, which has been approved by Great Canadian’s board, saying it delivers “significant and immediate value” to shareholders despite the negative effects of the pandemic.

Founded in 1982, Toronto-listed Great Canadian operates gaming, entertainment and hospitality facilities in four Canadian provinces.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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