Lottoland prepares counteroffer for Zeal over ‘destructive’ Lotto24 deal

Lottoland CEO Nigel Birrell

In a sharply-toned and far-reaching letter of objection, Nigel Birrell, the CEO of Lottoland, has stressed the operator’s strong opposition to the takeover of German lottery broker Lotto24 by Zeal Network, of which Lottoland is a shareholder.

The letter, published on Monday and addressed to Dr Helmut Becker and Jonas Matsson, respectively CEO and CFO of Zeal, sees Birrell question the value of the deal; seek more clarity on cost benefit and even goes so far as to infer a conflict of interests, naming Zeal shareholders Gunther Group and Oliver Jaster.

Indeed, Birrell accuses the Zeal board of acting “in the interest of certain shareholders”.

Birrell said the merger, which was approved by the German Federal Cartel Office on December 18, would lead to “value destruction” if shareholders do not “stop the transaction now.” The deal is currently set to be voted upon at the forthcoming Zeal Extraordinary General Meeting, scheduled for January 18, and Birrell called for this to be delayed.

He listed a number of questions, the answers to which he asserted should be provided in the interests of “all shareholders”. The relevant extract is below.

The two-page letter drew to a close with Birrell stating that Lottoland would make an “alternative offer” for “certain assets” of Zeal Network. The CEO said that Lottoland would shortly contact Zeal with details of the alternative transaction, with a view to publishing the offer by January 31.

Birrell said the alternative offer from Lottoland, which has undertaken its own “outside-in due diligence” on the original deal, would result in a “better outcome for all shareholders”.

Update: Read Zeal Network’s response here