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Apollo Bid For Great Canadian Gaming Hits Investor Backlash

Aoyon Ashraf and Scott Deveau
·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Investors who own large blocks of Great Canadian Gaming Corp. plan to vote against Apollo Global Management Inc.’s $2.5 billion offer for the casino company, according to people familiar with the matter.

Fund managers at BloombergSen Inc. and CI Financial Corp. are opposed to the C$39-a-share bid, the people said. Toronto-based BloombergSen is Great Canadian’s second-biggest holder with 14% and is not affiliated with Bloomberg LP.

“They’re selling a Canadian monopoly asset at rock bottom prices to foreign buyers,” Sanjay Sen, president and co-founder of BloombergSen, said in a phone interview. “The company is not in need of a sale as it’s still making money and not bleeding cash like other Covid-affected sectors.”

CI is the largest shareholder with 17.5% of the casino operator, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The shares are held in a number of different funds and it isn’t clear that all will cast their votes against the deal. A representative for CI declined to comment.

Representatives from Apollo defended the bid. “Apollo Funds believe the C$39 per share offer delivers significant and immediate value to the shareholders of Great Canadian, despite the material impacts Covid-19 has had on the business for a prolonged period of time,” the firm said in an emailed statement.

Apollo noted the offer price is higher than analysts’ price targets, which ranged from C$24 to C$35 a share before the deal was announced. Great Canadian traded as high as C$45.80 before the Covid-19 pandemic-driven rout.

“Based on our significant experience in the gaming and hospitality industries, we also see opportunities to help the management team drive additional top-line growth,” Apollo said.

Great Canadian shares rose as much as 37.5% Wednesday, the most since 1998, and closed just below the takeover price at C$38.90 in Toronto.

“This is a positive outcome, given the near-term challenges, for both investors and the company alike,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Derek Dley told clients in a note. “Great Canadian is likely to remain challenged over the near-to-medium term due to the impact of Covid-19, which has resulted in facility closures and guest restrictions across the company’s portfolio.”

Founded in 1982, Great Canadian operates 25 gaming, entertainment and hospitality facilities in Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The company in March temporarily suspended operations at all its properties to contain the spread of Covid-19.

(updates with Apollo statement, end-of-day share price and other new information)

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