China consortium buys Israel’s Playtika for $4.4 billion

The Chinese group includes game developer Shanghai Giant Network Technology and Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Playtika's games, including the popular slot game Slotomania, are played daily by more than 6 million people in 190 countries. (Courtesy)
Playtika's games, including the popular slot game Slotomania, are played daily by more than 6 million people in 190 countries. (Courtesy)

A Chinese consortium has bought Playtika, an Israeli online games company, for $4.4 billion in cash, the consortium and US-based Caesars Interactive Entertainment said in a joint statement on Sunday.

Caesars acquired the Herzliya-based Playtika in 2011.

The Chinese group includes Giant Investment (HK) Limited, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co. Ltd., China Minsheng Trust Co. Ltd., CDH China HF Holdings Company Limited, the Hony Capital Fund, and Yunfeng Capital — a private equity firm co-founded by Alibaba’s Jack Ma.

According to the statement, Playtika will continue to run independently with its headquarters remaining in Herzliya, and its existing management team will continue to run its day-to-day operations.

Robert Antokol, Co-Founder and CEO of Playtika (Courtesy)
Robert Antokol, co-founder and CEO of Playtika (Courtesy)

“We are incredibly excited by the commercial opportunities the consortium will make available to us, particularly in its ability to provide us access to a large and rapidly growing emerging market,” said Robert Antokol, co-founder and CEO of Playtika.

Playtika also has offices in Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Canada, Japan, Romania, Ukraine and the United States.

Founded in 2010, Playtika was a pioneer in the free-to-play games on social networks and mobile platforms and is the creator of popular titles, such as Slotomania, House of Fun and Bingo Blitz, which consistently rank among the top-grossing games on Apple’s App Store, Google Play and Facebook, the statement said.

“It is one of the biggest deals of a company founded by Israelis,” said by phone Koby Simana, the CEO of IVC Research Center, a Tel Aviv-based data company that tracks Israel’s high-tech industry. “The US company that bought it a few years ago will be the main beneficiary of this sale. Even so, it’s a significant achievement for the founders of Playtika because it may be easy to create a game nowadays, but the challenge is to create one that goes viral and is globally popular. It is even more difficult to monetize on these kinds of games.”

Playtika’s games are played daily by more than 6 million people in 190 countries, in 12 languages, and on more than 10 platforms.

Playtika’s crown jewel is Slotomania, an online video slot machine introduced in 2010, and immediately a big hit with web users. Slotomania’s performance was so impressive that Playtika was snapped up just a year and a half later by Caesar’s Interactive Entertainment, the online gambling division of Caesar’s Entertainment, the biggest casino and gaming company in the US, with properties in Las Vegas, Reno, Atlantic City and elsewhere. After an initial investment, CIE quickly upped its share in Playtika, becoming a 51% owner of the company in 2011.

“Playtika’s growth has been exceptional, and highlights its outstanding team, excellent corporate culture, cutting-edge big data analytics, and its unique ability to transform and grow games,” said a representative of the Consortium, Giant’s founder and chairman Shi Yuzhu. “We are looking forward to Playtika continuing to innovate and excel.”

The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other closing conditions, and is expected to close in the third or fourth calendar quarter of 2016, the statement said.

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