June 2, 2020 / 10:56 PM / 2 months ago

Exclusive: China-owned Playtika hires banks for $1 billion U.S. IPO - sources

(Reuters) - Playtika Ltd, a mobile gaming company owned by a Chinese investor group, has hired investment banks to prepare for a U.S. initial public offering that could raise around $1 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Playtika’s preparations illustrate how some Chinese-owned companies continue to pursue U.S. listings, despite heightened scrutiny of their auditing standards by U.S. politicians and investors. Last month, the U.S. Senate passed a bill which, if enacted into law, would make U.S.-listed companies subject to inspection by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

Playtika’s IPO would come amid a surge in demand for mobile gaming, as more consumers stay home during lockdowns aimed at curbing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Playtika has hired Morgan Stanley and other banks to underwrite the IPO and is aiming to go public either later this year or early in 2021, the sources said, cautioning that the timing, valuation and deal size are subject to market conditions.

Israel-based Playtika, which is known for its casino-themed games and operates apps for poker and solitaire, could be valued at around $10 billion in the IPO, the sources added.

The sources requested anonymity as the matter is confidential. Playtika and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

In 2016, a group of Chinese investors including Giant Network Group Co Ltd and Yunfeng Capital, a private equity firm founded by Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma, acquired Playtika from Caesars Interactive Entertainment for $4.4 billion.

Founded in 2010, Playtika currently boasts 27 million monthly active users, according to its website.

The IPO market has seen a significant pickup following the pandemic-induced stock market downturn, as investors place bets on newly listed companies benefiting from an expected economic recovery.

Yet some Chinese IPO hopefuls face uncertainty in the wake of Luckin Coffee Inc’s accounting issues. The Chinese coffee chain said in May that Nasdaq had notified it of plans to delist it from the exchange, a month after it disclosed that some employees had fabricated sales accounts.

Online grocery firm Dada Nexus Ltd said Monday it aimed to raise up to $280.5 million on Nasdaq, the first major Chinese company IPO in the United States since tensions between Washington and Beijing escalated over the future of Hong Kong and the origins of the novel coronavirus.

Reporting by Anirban Sen in Bengaluru and Joshua Franklin in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler

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