May 12, 2010 / 12:21 PM / 9 years ago

Malaysia's Berjaya buys sports betting firm

KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 (Reuters) - Malaysian gaming group Berjaya (BGRO.KL) will acquire from its major shareholder a sports betting operator after the southeast Asian country legalised the activity, the company said on Wednesday.

Berjaya will pay 525 million ringgit ($163.9 million) to gaming tycoon Vincent Tan for a 70 percent stake of Ascot Sports Sdn Bhd, which recently obtained approval from the government to conduct a sports betting business.

Tan also controls Berjaya Sports Toto (BSTB.KL), one of three number forecast operators in the mainly Muslim country.

“The Minister of Finance has given its approval ... to Ascot ... to carry out sports betting operations upon certain terms and conditions,” Berjaya said in a stock exchange filing.

Ascot is expected to kick start its sports betting operation in the second half of this year, with its retail betting operations being housed at selected Sports Toto outlets, the company said.

“The primary focus of Ascot will be on sports betting on soccer games in the initial stages with the aim of increasing their product service offering to other sports in the future,” it said.

Separately, Berjaya said it is planning to raise about 614 million ringgit from a rights offering.

Shares of Berjaya Sports Toto ended up 2.7 percent ahead of the announcement on Wednesday.

Shares of Berjaya, which were suspended from trading on Tuesday, will resume trading from Thursday. (Reporting by Soo Ai Peng; Editing by David Holmes) ($1=3.203 Malaysian Ringgit)

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