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Press Release Category Business - Financial - Pokernews.com Release Date: October 26, 2004

Is Paradise Poker worth $300 million?


By Pokernews.com
October 26, 2004
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ParadisePoker.com, the online poker website, is about to be sold to what is claimed to be the world's largest internet betting group, Sportingbet, according to British news reports.

PR9.NET October 26, 2004 - The sum of "more than £170 million ($313m)" has been quoted by two newspapers as the going price, but close observers of the online poker business reckon this is way too high.

Paradise Poker was on the market 12 months ago for $100 million, but could not find a buyer at that price. Since then, its market share has dropped, and it has fallen from first to fourth place among internet poker rooms.

If a deal went through, the acquisition would almost double the size of Sportingbet, whose shares are traded on the Alternative Investment Market at a market value of £229m ($421m).

The company announced last week that it was in "advanced discussions about a potential substantial acquisition of an online poker business". Sportingbet, founded in 1998 by bookmaker Mark Blandford, said its acquisition would be "significantly earnings enhancing", although it
warned it was not certain a deal would be agreed.

It did not name the company it is buying, but it is believed that the target is Tropical Paradise, which operates the ParadisePoker.com website from Costa Rica. The site has been on a publicity drive in Britain this year and launched a series of advertisements featuring the model Caprice.

Sportingbet was recently named as the world's leading online gambling operator by the industry journal, eGaming Review, which put it ahead of Ladbrokes and William Hill for online operations. It has postponed publication of its results, which were due last Tuesday, pending the outcome of the talks.

However, some investors have remained wary of the company because it does a large part of its business in America, where online sports betting is banned.

One industry insider commented. "This valuation of paradise would make new leaders Party Poker worth at least $2 billion. Somewhere, for some reason, the estimated value of Paradise has become over-inflated.

"I put Paradise Poker's profit as between £10m and £16m a year, which would present Sportingbet with a very expensive purchase at £170m. I believe that they are not taking sufficiently into account the time they will have to wait for payback. And new rooms, like PokerChamps, are coming a long with better and more up-to-date third generation software."

* * *
Meanwhile, Sportingbet was forced offline early last Thursday by a digital extortionist. Both its site and Tote.com suffered simultaneous attacks, said U.K.-based web technicians Netcraft. The outages lasted more than 16 hours for Tote.com, but only minutes for Sportingbet.com. Both sites are back up and running.

"Industries conducting large volumes of transactions are emerging as targets for a cottage industry of digital extortionists using distributed denial of service attacks," said Netcraft in a statement. "These attacks typically are preceded by a request for payment from parties who claim the ability to 'prevent' an imminent attack. If no payment is made, a DoS attack follows."

In March, 2004, a sustained campaign of DoS attacks was launched against Britain's top 20 gambling sites after extortion demands were met and rejected.

And, in July, Russian and British authorities, with the help of law enforcement agencies in Australia, the United States, Canada, and Estonia, arrested a trio of men on charges of running the blackmail operation.


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