Emmett Opposes PlayAGS Takeover Bid, Says Brightstar Offer Undervalues Company

Estimated read time 4 min read

Emmett Investment Management, a money manager focusing on mid- and small-cap stocks, today penned a letter to PlayAGS (NYSE: AGS) investors, telling them they should oppose the $1.1 billion takeover offer floated on May 9 by Brightstar Capital Partners.

A slide from a PlayAGS investor presentation. Emmett Investment Management is opposing Brightstar Capital’s takeover offer for the slot machine maker. (Image: PlayAGS)

The board of the Las Vegas-based slot machine approved the go-private bid from the private equity firm and if shareholders do the same, the transaction could close in the second half of this year. Brightstar’s offer value PlayAGS at $12.50, or a 40% premium to where the stock closed on May 8. PlayAGS shares are up 33.31 over the past week, but have yet to ascend to $12.50.

In its letter to investors, Emmett questioned the timing of the offer becoming public, noting it arrived just a day before the target released impressive first-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) results.

The Brightstar transaction was announced just hours before the release of AGS’s transformational first quarter results,” wrote Emmett CIO and founder Alexander Rohr. “The Company’s first quarter results reinforce our optimistic view of AGS’s prospects, as organic adjusted EBITDA grew 21%, far outpacing the industry. Business mix is also improving at AGS: adjusted EBITDA from the Company’s interactive segment, to which the market assigns the highest multiple, increased almost 9x year-over-year and almost 50% sequentially.”

New York-based Emmett owns approximately 1.5% of PlayAGS outstanding equity.

Emmett Says Takeover Bid Overshadowed PlayAGS Earnings

It’s not uncommon for some investors to oppose acquisitions and there are recent examples of professional market participants resisting gaming industry takeovers.

Rohr noted that if investors had adequate time to absorb PlayAGS’s strong first-quarter numbers, the stock might be trading above the $11.40 area at which resides today. Rather, the Brightstar take-private bid overshadowed those results.

“If market participants had been given the opportunity to digest first quarter results absent Brightstar’s bid, we believe AGS shares would be trading well above the current market price of $11.40,” wrote the Emmett chief investment officer. “Any reasonable forecast of AGS’s 2024 adjusted EBITDA increased by ~15%, which on a constant enterprise value/EBITDA multiple—arguably conservative given improving mix—would imply a share price higher than $11.40.”

Rohr went onto write that PlayAGS investors are essentially being asked to accept a bid “that offers effectively zero—or negative—premium.” He added that the company’s first-quarter numbers don’t reflect potential upcoming benefit to the company via possible disruption in the industry caused by the pending merger of International Game Technology’s (NYSE: IGT) global games unit with Everi Holdings (NYSE: EVRI). He said that transaction could actually help PlayAGS add market share and that probably isn’t accounted for in the Brightstar offer.

Emmett Not Opposed to PlayAGS Selling, Sees Scant Value In Brightstar Bid

Rohr said his firm isn’t averse to PlayAGS being acquired, but he believes the Brightstar offer isn’t adequate compensation for investors given the progress the target has made and its potential to build on that over the long-term. Rohr also outlined a scenario in which PlayAGS could create significant value for shareholders without the takeover.

“We believe AGS would have a bright future as a standalone public company, with at least $225 million in 2026 adjusted EBITDA clearly achievable. Even on a multiple of 7x adjusted EBITDA—a significant discount to slower-growing peer Light and Wonder’s 9x NTM multiple—AGS shares would trade at $24.70, nearly 100% higher than Brightstar’s bid,” he opined.

He did not mention other potential suitors for PlayAGS and some analysts have noted the target is unlikely to be the subject of a bidding war.

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