Slot machine group Talarius sold to Australians for £137m

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The operator of the Quicksilver chain of slot machine gaming centres agreed yesterday to be taken over by a joint venture controlled by Australia's biggest lottery operator and Macquarie Bank.

Talarius was sold for 270p a share in cash - a 3.3 per cent premium to the price before the deal was announced - valuing the business at £137.2m. The move is the first European purchase for the lottery operator Tattersall's, which acquired a 10 per cent stake in Talarius last December with a view to taking advantage of a loosening of the gambling rules in the UK.

Talarius chief executive Nick Harding said the forthcoming introduction of the smoking ban in England and Wales was one of the reasons for agreeing the deal.

"The smoking ban will affect the leisure and hospitality industries generally," he said. "We can expect choppy waters in 2007."

The management team will remain intact and intends to focus on expanding the business through Europe and in emerging markets. "We are joining forces with someone who can guarantee the expansion of the business," its chairman David Williams said.

Shares in Talarius, which were first sold to investors in April 2005 for 80p each, rose 10p, or 4 per cent, to 271.5p yesterday.

Talarius owns almost 200 outlets with 9,500 gaming machines and the Cyberslotz website.

Melbourne-based Tattersall's completed the purchase of Unitab last month. The lottery operator has gambling licences in five Pacific island nations.

The Talarius acquisition requires investor approval and is expected to take effect in early February.

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