£270m bid for Inspired Gaming

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The Independent Online

Inspired Gaming – which makes gambling machines for bookies including William Hill and Paddy Power – is in talks over a possible £270m takeover.

The company yesterday told the stockmarket that it had received an indicative offer of 385p a share from a "financial institution" and had decided to open its books to the potential bidder.

The company joined the Aim market in June 2006 when the shares were priced at 180p.

Inspired declined to name the bidder, but it is understood to be an Icelandic company with City sources pointing to FL Group. The Icelandic investment group took out a 10 per cent stake in the company in March.

Inspired manages more than 82,000 gaming machines across Britain and had sales of £83.4m in the 28 weeks to April 14.

Yesterday's announcement caused the shares to jump 24.25p to 365p, a new all-time high, although the company cautioned that there was no certainty that the approach would translate into an offer.

The announcement of the talks between the two parties were made with the approval of the potential bidder.

It is potentially a good time to buy into gaming machine makers on the back of the Government's liberalisation of gambling laws. Part of this has removed the so-called "demand" test that required proof of demand for a new betting shop in any area before a licence is granted.

Analysts believe its removal will spark a rise in the number of licensed betting offices, for which the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals of the type made by Inspired are a key offering.

The rules governing the machines have also been eased, enabling them to offer a wider range of product.

However, the machines have proved controversial with gambling charities, particularly those dealing with addiction, concerned over their spread.

FOBT's have been branded the "crack cocaine of gambling" in the past.