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Flutter acquires majority stake in Serbia’s MaxBet for €141m

| By Robert Fletcher
Flutter Entertainment has acquired an initial 51% stake in Serbian omnichannel sports betting and gaming operator for €141.0m (£122.6m/$149.0m) in cash.
Flutter MaxBet

The deal, Flutter says, provides the group with access to the regulated Serbian market and supports its ongoing expansion plans, including within the wider Balkans region.

The agreement also states that Flutter has the opportunity to acquire the remaining 49% in MaxBet in 2029.

Ranked among the leading operators in Serbia with an approximate 20% online share, MaxBet employs more than 2,400 staff. In the 12 months to June 2023, it posted €145.0m in regulated revenue and €32.0m worth of adjusted EBITDA.

The transaction remains subject to customary regulatory clearances but is due to close in the first quarter of 2024.

“I am excited to announce the addition of MaxBet to the Flutter portfolio,” Flutter chief executive Peter Jackson said. “This acquisition continues our progress against the strategic priorities we have set for our international division; to buy and build podium positions in regulated markets. 

“We believe MaxBet is an excellent opportunity to replicate the success we have achieved in markets like Georgia, India and Italy by acquiring a strong brand in a podium position, where we see a compelling opportunity to combine that extensive local expertise with the power of the Flutter Edge to accelerate and transform growth.”

Flutter continues to expand

Flutter has been relatively quiet in terms of its M&A activity during 2023 with no major new additions to report. However, the group has repeated on several occasions its commitment to further expand its business through M&A.

Last year, Flutter completed a number of acquisitions. The stand-out deal was its purchase of Italian online gaming and lottery operator Sisal for €1.90bn in August 2022.

At the time, Flutter said this supported its strategy of investing to build leadership positions in regulated markets worldwide. Flutter made similar comments when announcing the MaxBet deal.

Also last year, in January 2022, Flutter acquired bingo operator Tombola for £402.0m. This bolstered its presence in the bingo market – an area where the group has traditionally been weaker.

Material impact of acquisitions 

While still relatively new additions to the business, the impact of the two acquisition has been clear to see in Flutter’s recent results announcements.

During the first half of 2023, Flutter highlighted the ongoing benefit of the Sisal deal, saying this helped drive up Italy revenue. Turkey, where Sisal powers the national lottery, also performed strongly.

Total group revenue in the six months to 30 June was up 41.9% to £4.81bn. Net loss also flipped to a profit of £128.0m and EBITDA increased 76.3% to £765.0m.

As for the year in which the acquisitions completed, revenue in 2022 climbed 27.0% year-on-year to £7.69bn. This was despite the Sisal business only joining the group part-way through the year.

The group also noted that the addition of Tombola helped push UK and Ireland revenue up 4.0% in the full year.

Flutter follows Entain in growing CEE presence

Flutter is not the only gambling giant expanding its presence in the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region.

Entain CEE, the joint venture between the gaming operator and Czech investment fund Emma Capital, acquired Polish sportsbook operator STS Holding for £750m earlier this year.

This marked the second acquisition for the venture, which formed in August last year in the wake of the £690m acquisition of Croatia’s SuperSport.

Last month, Mikolaj Cymerman, head of corporate development at Entain CEE, spoke with iGB about the group’s ongoing growth plans in the region. 

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