Centrebet defends takeover talk - 11th March 2010

Online wagering and gaming firm Centrebet International Ltd says it first become aware of potential takeover proposals in February but did not tell the market until this week for reasons of confidentiality.

Centrebet informed the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) on Tuesday that it was in talks with parties interested in taking over the company.

The ASX has asked Centrebet when it first became aware of the proposals.

Furthermore, if the company were aware of the proposals before it informed the market of the proposals, why was the announcement of the proposals not made at an earlier time, the ASX asked.

"The company first became aware of the confidential, indicative, non-binding and conditional proposals on February 4, 2010," Centrebet said in its reply to the ASX on Thursday.

"Each of the proposals expressly stated that their existence and content were strictly confidential."

On Tuesday March 9, a report in The Australian Financial Review (AFR) said a short list of bidders for Centrebet had narrowed to three, and that Ladbrokes, William Hill and Sportingbet were understood to be in late stages of talks with Centrebet.

Centrebet said on Thursday that up until the date of its announcement on Tuesday, it had no reason to believe that confidentiality had been lost, but given the media report on that day, it decided to announce the proposals "out of an abundance of caution".

Centrebet said each of proposals were indicative, non-binding, conditional and incomplete and remained so.

The company said that it had informed the market on numerous occasions that it was actively considering consolidation opportunities, including at its annual general meeting in November 2009 and at the release of the company's first half results in February.

"In light of the above, market participants were at all relevant times fully informed that the company was undertaking a process which may result in proposals being put to the company," Centrebet said.

"Prior to the AFR article, press and/or broker reports regarding the company were consistent with these earlier announcements.

"Any pre-mature disclosure of the proposals would contravene the express terms of the proposals and may have resulted in one or more proposals being withdrawn and may otherwise have been detrimental to the above process and, as a result, to the company and its shareholders."

Shares in Centrebet were steady at $1.77 at 1137 AEDT on Thursday.

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