Bucking the broader market’s downward trend this morning, Aristocrat Leisure (ASX: ALL) shares were up 4.30% heading into lunch today following the poker machine giant’s announced plans of a major share buyback.
After raising $1.3bn for its failed takeover crack at UK gaming software company Playtech, Aristocrat now plans to return up to $500m to investors via an on-market share buyback.
CEO Trevor Croker plans to take an “opportunistic” approach to the said buyback, effective from June.
Beyond returning cash to shareholders, what also captured the market’s imagination today were revelations that the group wants to advance its own real money gaming (RMG) strategy.
Despite Aristocrat’s Failed $3.9bn bid for Playtech, the group still plans to become the global leader in the burgeoning online gaming sector.
Further acquisitions are clearly in Aristocrat’s sights, with Croker favouring a “build and buy” strategy to develop “scale in the online RMG space, which would provide further channels for the group’s world-leading content.
“Our ambition is to be the leading gaming platform in the global online RMG industry, and we anticipate being live with i-Gaming products in two jurisdictions in the US by the end of calendar year 2022,” Croker noted.
While the group will have $800m to invest in its build and buy strategy after executing the $500m buyback, Croker made it clear to investors that this was by no means an upper limit on its growth-by-acquisition strategy.
“We’re not constrained to a number, but we are very disciplined in our approach to M&A…our sustained investment in talent, technology and product enables us to continue to take share wherever we play and delivered significant top and bottom-line growth in the first half of fiscal 2022,” Croker concluded.
Revenue up 23% to $2.75bn
Fully franked interim dividend of 26c a share, payable 1 July.
41% growth in normalised net profit to $580m
Earnings of $970m is 30% higher
Group revenue increased to $2.7bn, up 23.1% in reported terms
Operating cash flow increased 42.0% to $502.4m compared to the previous period
Aristocrat has entered the second half with solid fundamentals, strong operational momentum, and a robust balance sheet with gearing (net (cash)/debt to earnings) further reduced to (0.3x), and in excess of $3.3bn of liquidity available as at 31 March 2022.
Aristocrat’s plans for continued growth over the full year to 30 September 2022, include:
Continued market-leading positions in Gaming Operations
Sustainable growth in floor share across key Gaming Outright Sales markets
Growth in Pixel United bookings and profitability
Continued D&D investment to drive sustained, long-term growth
Further investment in core business capability
Aristocrat share price: A 12 month snapshot.
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