PokerStars owner could raise up to $2.50 billion for M&A: CEO

(Reuters) - PokerStars owner Stars Group Inc could raise up to $2.50 billion to fund acquisitions if needed, Chief Executive Rafael Ashkenazi said in an interview on Monday.

Ashkenazi took over reins of the online gaming and betting company last year following David Baazov’s departure after being charged with insider trading.

After a name change to better align with its mainstay game PokerStars and a management reshuffle, Ashkenazi is now looking for ways to expand the company previously known as Amaya.

Stars Group has about $255 million of cash and reduced its debt by $515 million in the last one year, giving it enough leverage to turn acquisitive.

Talks are already underway, but Ashkenazi did not name the companies involved.

Ashkenazi said he is looking at buying either one big company or three to five small-to-medium companies.

While Stars Group is looking to infuse money to expand its fast-growing online casino and sports betting businesses, it expects poker to continue to be its biggest revenue generator over the next five years.

Last week, the company posted a third-quarter profit that increased six fold, helped by strong performance across its three verticals.

As Pennsylvania looks to expand online gambling, Stars is planning to secure a license with a partner in one of the state’s 12 casinos over the next few months, Ashkenazi said.

(This version of the story corrects headline and first paragraph to say company could raise, not looks to raise, funds)

Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta