Amaya Q2 Results Offer Some Growth Opportunities But No News On Any Bids

Amaya Call: Baazov Out, PokerStars Up, No News On Possible Acquisition

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Amaya’s second quarter results showed poker revenues relatively flat, but growth in the new casino and sportsbook verticals.

The main news from the report was that Rafi Ashkenazi has been confirmed as Amaya’s chief executive.

Former CEO David Baazov, who stood down “temporarily” following the insider trading allegations by the Quebec Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), has now officially resigned from all positions in Amaya.

Baazov said:

“I am proud of my contributions in building Amaya into the successful company it is today, and continue to be supportive of its strategy and management.”

The board statement about his resignation was unusually terse:

“Amaya thanks Mr. Baazov for his contributions to Amaya since its inception and through its rapid growth, and looks forward to Mr. Ashkenazi’s continued success in leading the execution of Amaya’s strategy.”

Industry rumors now abound that David Baazov will dispose of his shareholding in Amaya and completely exit the company. There was no more news regarding any possible bid he might be organising for the company.

  • The Q2 results press release is here.
  • The formal SEDAR results filing is here.

Headline numbers

All numbers in thousands (000):

  • Revenues–$285,939 up 10.2% on the $259,500 in 2015. Six months revenues from January to the end of June were $574,612, 8.1% ahead of last year.
  • Net earnings–$22,497 up from $6,382 in 2015. Six months earnings $77,988 up from $29,645.
  • Customer deposits–$128,786 on June 30, 2015, $203,475 at December 31, 2015.
  • Long term debt –$2,378,777 down from $2,436,538.
  • Poker revenue–$215,622 slightly down on the $216,053 of Q2 2015. Italy, UK and France poker revenues up. Isle of Man, Spain, Malta and others down. 63% of revenues came from the European Union. Amaya has around a 71% market share in online poker.
  • Casino and sportsbook revenue–$59,615 in Q2 up 89 percent.  In Q2 of 2015 revenues were $31,493. Approximately 90% of the revenues came from casino.
  • Currency impact—On a constant currency basis revenues were up 15% and poker revenues up 5%.
  • Customer registrations–Increased by 1.9 million to approximately 103.5 million at the end of the quarter.
  • Quarterly Real-Money Active Uniques (QAUs)— 2.4 million, an increase of approximately 3% year-over-year. Approximately 2.3 million of such QAUs played online poker during the quarter. Approximately 438,000 QAUs use the casino offering, an increase of 23% year-on-year.
  • Quarterly Net Yield (QNY) – Total QNY was $117, an increase of 7.5% year-over-year.

VIP changes and rake increases supported poker revenues

Amaya’s press release and new CEO Rafi Askenazi were extremely positive about the impact of the VIP scheme changes which so outraged players when they were first announced.

During the investor conference call, Askenazi said that there had been “no negative revenue impact from high revenue players” and added that “bankrolls from recreational and casual players are lasting longer.”

Rake changes amounted to 4 percent across the board, but Amaya pointed out that PokerStars continues to offer the lowest rake of all the major operators.

Revenues were also supported by an extremely profitable Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP), which paid out $91 million in prizes. The largest prize pool in the event’s history generated 19 percent more rake than the 2015 event.

Ashkenazi was asked about the migration of players from Full Tilt to the PokerStars poker client—the Full Tilt brand remains active, but players now play in the PokerStars player pool and use PokerStars poker software.

He replied that the migration had been extremely successful with all KPIs improving. The migration and retirement of the Full Tilt software had raised concerns that enough players might leave for a different poker room to affect revenues, but this has not occurred.

New permanent feature based on the Card Hunt promotion

The success of the PokerStars Card Hunt promotion has led to the decision to make a similar feature a permanent part of the PokerStars software.

The promotion offered a bingo card style “game within the game” and is similar to a promotion run by French operator Winamax. Winamax saw its cash game traffic increase substantially as the result of its promotion, and made the feature permanent. PokerStars in following suit and expects the changes to be implemented in Q3.

Casino and sports betting growth

Growth in casino and sports betting has now brought the verticals up to 21 percent of Amaya revenues. In 2015 they generated 12 percent of revenues.

In the investor earnings call, the precise numbers for sportsbook revenues were given as $6.6 million, an increase of 25 percent.

Both casino and sportsbook will benefit from new mobile apps. A standalone casino app is due to be released in Q3 and a completely new sportsbook app should be releases by the end of this year.

Amaya will also begin a “limited launch of targeted external marketing campaigns. So far, marketing has been restricted almost entirely to existing Amaya customers.

No change in situation with legal problems

There have been no significant developments in the Amaya appeal against the $870 million judgment in Kentucky.

The notes to the financial statements reiterated Amaya’s position that “the action is frivolous” and therefore the company has made “no provision” for the matter. Amaya has posted a $100 million supersedeas bond to stay enforcement of the damages order pending the appeal.

The class action suits launched following the indictment of David Baazov for insider trading charges are equally dismissed. Amaya states that the “class actions are without merit and intends to vigorously defend itself against them.”

Future options for Amaya

The Q2 release was disappointing in that there was no mention of any concrete bids arising from the interest reported by the Special Committee of the Board.

The earnings statement could only repeat that “discussions with some of these parties have progressed.”

- A former founder of Poker Industry Pro and Head of Content at PokerNews publisher iBus Media, Joss Wood is a graduate in English from the University of Birmingham. Joss also holds a master’s degree in Organisational Development from the University of Manchester. His career path has taken him from the British Army, through business and finance to seven years as a successful professional poker player.
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