Lpc bwinparty $650m buyout loan on hold until m&a more clear

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Aug 14 Syndication of a $650m-equivalent covenant-lite leveraged loan financing backing online gambling company 888 Holdings' acquisition of London-listed Bwin.party has been put on hold until there is more clarity on the M&A process, banking sources said on Friday. Barclays and JP Morgan have underwritten the dual-currency leveraged loan financing to back 888 Holdings' acquisition and were selling it to institutional investors, but have since postponed the process in light of a rival bid from British online gambling firm GVC Holdings. The move will save the company from paying expensive ticking fees, which had been made more attractive to entice lenders to the deal. The ticking fee was due to pay 50 percent of the interest margin on the loan between 16-45 days, and 100 percent of the margin and the Libor/Euribor floor thereafter.

The financing had met some reluctance from investors unwilling to commit to the deal, despite attempts to make it more attractive, bankers said. Pricing was increased to pay an interest margin of 400bp at a 99-99.5 OID, from initial guidance of 325bp-350bp with a 99.5 OID. A one percent floor remained unchanged.

"It is hard to get investors to commit to a deal when an M&A situation is unclear, as they are reluctant to allocate capital and resources to a deal they are unsure will happen," a senior leveraged loan banker said."Most banks don't like to hold exposure so will price a deal to sell but there is a rationale for holding something back as they will be able to get a much better deal through the market if the M&A situation is sorted."

The loan will be relaunched when there is more clarity around the M&A process, the sources said."As announced on 17th July, the financing of 888's recommended offer for bwin.party digital entertainment plc is secured by firm commitments from Barclays Bank and JP Morgan," an 888 spokesperson said. Bwin, put up for sale last year, accepted a cash and stock deal worth 900 million pounds ($1.41 billion) from online casino and poker firm 888 in July. GVC submitted a rival 1 billion pound bid for the company at the end of July, which it increased on August 7 to 1.03 billion pounds, in cash and stock, backed by US private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. ($1 = 0.6404 pounds)