Merger would create a £2 billion Internet gambling giant

PartyGaming is reported to be in talks with Austrian rival Bwin about a merger that would create a £2 billion Internet gambling giant.

UK daily The Times said this week that the sides have been holding talks since the summer and that PartyGaming Chief Executive Jim Ryan was expected to be asked by Britain’s Takeover Panel to clarify the company’s position.

The Times quoted a source who cautioned that discussions were at an early stage and there was no certainty that a deal would be reached. “Everyone in the industry is talking to everybody else.”

That said, a marriage between PartyGaming and Bwin would be logical given the former’s ambition to grow its presence in sports betting, an area where the Austrian group has particular strength. Gibraltar-based Party is best known for offering poker and casino games.

Also, back in April, Party bolstered its marketability by reaching a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure that it would not face prosecution over its activities in the United States. It agreed to pay a $105 million fine (£65 million) as part of the arrangement.

Party’s equity, which is traded on the London Stock Exchange, is currently valued at about £1 billion. Bwin, which is listed on the Vienna stock exchange, has a market value of about €1.3 billion (£1.2 billion).