James Moore: Does Playtech want join the big boys' club?

  • @TheIndyBusiness

Outlook Is Playtech playing fast and loose with its investors?

It is certainly giving that impression. Yesterday the software company unveiled a "memorandum of understanding" to pay €95m (£78m) for businesses owned by its founder and biggest shareholder, the Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi.

Oh, and it also wants to buy (or lease) a building from him (or an entity connected to him in regulatory announcement speak). And appoint him as an adviser, although the latter will only cost a euro (so about tuppence given the way that currency is going).

Now both deals may ultimately turn out to be good ones. The company's board might have looked at Mr Sagi's offering and said wow! This is a steal! Yes please! And office space is always handy (we'll leave aside the fact that most companies prefer to rent it).

But financial information beyond an assurance that social gaming is going to be the next big thing, is thin on the ground and, well, it just looks odd. Especially for a business that wants to join the grown ups on the FTSE 250 index.

The company says the announcement itself is evidence of it being strictly above board. Had it stayed with the kids on the Aim market it needn't have said anything until the deal was all but done.

Which isn't really the point. Moving on to the FTSE 250 brings enhanced visibility, the possibility of blue-chip investors and (crucially) credibility. It's just that those investors are (finally) beginning to ask questions having got their fingers burnt on a number of overseas businesses with, shall we put this delicately now, governance issues.

This isn't the first time that Playtech has raised eyebrows, and the way its shares reacted yesterday tells its own story. It has a choice to make: become a legitimate member of the big boys' club or get lumped in with some of those mining companies from former Soviet states with lots of those "issues".

Is Playtech a grown-up plc or just a toy of Mr Sagi's? That question is only going to get louder from here on in.