24 May 2021

Acroud publishes interim report Jan-Mar 2021: Strong quarter characterised by growth and acquisitions


 

First Quarter 2021

Significant events during the quarter

Significant events after the quarter

VD-comment: The Ride continues!

It has been a very eventful quarter during which we have executed the communicated strategy with increased focus on growth, which is seen in increasing NDCs (New Depositing Customers) development. This is one of the most important key figures and the development has been very strong, to a large extent as a result of acquisitions made and the synergies they entail. We have developed Acroud from being a traditional “comparison site” affiliate company to owning a strong “ecosystem” in the media and affiliation industry. We are taking big steps forward in high speed through an innovative and forward-leaning approach. We connect People, Content Creators (Bloggers, Youtubers, Affiliates, etc.) and activities within the ecosystem.

In short time we have developed Acroud from primarily operating traditional comparison and news sites within iGaming to also run land-based live events, SaaS solutions, BaaS solutions and high-quality media content such as Streaming, Twitch and Youtube. All of these mentioned components or “circles” meet in Acroud and it is so “where the magic happens” in the media ecosystem.

A strong and progressive quarter

When I took over as CEO I expected that it would take around 12 months before we would harvest the initial fruits of the extensive change management work. Therefore it is extra gratifying to see the results for the first quarter confirming this:

Through the change management work, the original iGaming Affiliation segment now shows growth sequentially, excluding acquisitions. Our comparative figures compared to the first quarter last year have been affected by the adjustment made in the Dutch market in July last year, which mainly explains the negative organic growth in iGaming Affiliation on an annual basis. According to Dutch authorities, the market is expected to reopen in October 2021.

What is “The Media House of the Future”?

For Acroud, it is a mantra and means a lot. First of all, it’s an attitude. “Future” means being pro-active, adaptable and to be in the forefront. “Media house” means that we build an ecosystem consisting of several different components that together complement each other with clear synergies. As an example, during March 2021 we generated +1,000 NDCs through streaming, which has not been generated in previous quarters in the business. By getting the various components to work together, we create diversification, high-qualitative content and high entry barriers. Step by step, we are moving from being a pure player with traditional comparison sites to a product mix comprising more complex solutions with high entry barriers and high-quality content.

Through the acquisition of Power Media Group, Acroud took a big leap into the SaaS industry and has now also become a SaaS company (Software as a Service). In line with our vision to create a better way for “Content Creators” to monetize from their work, we now offer two different software solutions. 1) Voonix, which is an industry-leading data collection tool in the affiliation industry, and 2) Affhut, which simplifies for users to build and create their own networks of “Content Creators”.

The acquisition of TheGamblingCabin (TGC) in April was another important milestone on the road to create the “Media House of the Future”. TGC is a fast-growing player in streaming and software solutions for the media and affiliation industry. TGCs’ “reduction tool” is an industry-leading software and the company’s digital presence is impressive and can be launched internationally. This and the other acquisitions we have made recently transform and strengthen Acroud at the same time as we position ourselves as a SaaS supplier on the strategic map.

Acroud´s three growth pillars

Following the acquisitions, a new company have been formed which consists of two operational segments: iGaming Affiliation (news and comparison websites) and …As a Service (SaaS- and BaaS solutions). Our expansion strategy for the two segments is based on 3 growth pillars which are iGaming Affiliation, BaaS and SaaS solutions. The iGaming Affiliation is our underlying affiliate business containing the traditional verticals; Poker, Sports Betting and Casino. Acroud delivers high quality content and uses search engine optimisation to rank high in keywords and thereby drive traffic in the media industry. The second pillar, “Software as a Service” (SaaS) solutions, has been described above, while the third pillar “Business as a Service” (BaaS) is a service offering that primarily includes Matching Visions. Matching Visions provides “Content Creators” (Bloggers, Youtubers, Affiliates, etc.) access to a large client base, unique software, tools and business terms, which would otherwise be out of their reach. Thousands of smaller iGaming affiliate sites around the world come together, via Matching Visions, to provide traffic and new players to online gaming operators.

Focus on “Operational Excellence”

After the integration of the acquired businesses, the focus is on ‘Operational Excellence’ and on developing the new Acroud together with our new team. In February a new management team was formed with experienced leaders from the industry who see the synergies within our group and have a way of working which is fast, entrepreneurial and professional. We are constantly improving and building a strong organization adapted to growth.

In addition, after two years of work, all sites have now migrated to one and the same platform, which means efficient and scalable roll-out of sites. Preparations for the opening and regulation of the German and Dutch markets this year are in full swing and the last pieces of the puzzle will fall into place during the second quarter so that we are ready to capitalize on our iGaming assets.

Our way to create shareholder value

I always aim to engage the best talent, make best use of resources and find our own unique position in the value chain within the industry. This in turn will maximize shareholder value. This is exactly what we are doing with Acroud moving on the strategic map and creating a unique media company with powerful SaaS solutions, unique focus on Poker and high-quality content including a large network of streamers. We like to see opportunities where others have not yet understood the full potential.

At the same time as others rush to the US, we continue our focus on organic growth step by step where our US assets are showing momentum. We focus on the areas where we have “low-hanging fruit” to pick to create value for shareholders.

In addition, we continue to create unique content and unique revenue streams by “owning poker again” via TheGamblingCabin and The Festival Series which is a land-based and competitive Sports Betting, Casino and Poker event at several different destinations in Europe. We are also expanding the streaming networks within Matching Visions as well as broadening our SaaS solutions through Voonix expansion. Pictures, mobile media and film are becoming important in our daily lives and also for search engine optimization, which is the foundation for building awareness regarding Acroud websites and brands. Thus, “User Generated Content” norm today – let’s do it through a strong offering in social media.

We will continue to pursue an opportunistic acquisition strategy where we evaluate new potential acquisitions, primarily focusing on SaaS solutions and Sports Betting, but we will not be as aggressive as the second half of 2020 and the first half of 2021. Priority will be on organic growth in our base portfolio, integration of completed acquisitions, while we will step by step reduce net indebtedness over time.

In summary, the pieces of the Acroud puzzle are starting to fall into place to build “The Media House of the Future” and we are prepared for solid growth. You can expect that we will continue to keep a high pace, invest smart and create value for shareholders.

Multi-brand platform welcomes acclaimed new member to high-profile list

Leading gaming and sports betting partner GAMING1 has added the prominent French operator JOABET to its renowned affiliate program.

The hugely popular sportsbook and casino, which is regulated through ARJEL and recently underwent a full-scale rebrand, offers punters unrivalled welcome promotions, including refunds for their first bet to the value of €100.

Joining GAMING1’s state-of-the-art affiliate program allows JOABET to benefit from flexible and modular reward plans, round the clock customer support and an advanced omni-channel marketing tool.

GAMING1’s latest agreement further strengthens its leading position within the French market and beyond, as the company continues to extend its reach across a global range of regulated territories spanning both Europe and Latin America.

Commenting on the deal, Sylvain Boniver, COO & Co-Founder at GAMING1, said: “Powering JOABET’S cutting-edge rebrand was a fantastic step for us, and we are delighted to take our partnership to the next level by welcoming the operator into our affiliate program.

“We have no doubt that the company will rapidly experience the myriad benefits of the program, which provides invaluable assistance to brands looking to reach new audiences.”

A spokesperson at JOABET added: “We are thrilled to join GAMING1’s multi-brand affiliate program, in a deal enabling us to benefit from the brilliant range of marketing tools and services which it offers.

“The move will prove essential to our ongoing expansion, expanding our appeal to an even wider range of customers. Working with GAMING1’s talented team has been a real pleasure, and we look forward to maintaining our partnership.”

Regarded as one of Belgium and France’s foremost suppliers, GAMING1 has proven key to JOABET’s operations since first partnering together three years ago.

Dedicated to providing an unmatched entertainment experience for its players, it currently operates within Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Switzerland, Colombia and MGA market.

 

Catena Media plc, an industry leader in online lead generation, has acquired 100 percent of the shares in Lineups.com, strengthening Catena Media’s leading position in the growing US betting market. Lineups.com is an online sports affiliation company specialising in analytics, betting predictions and tools. The total purchase price amounts to USD 39.6 million, payable in cash in three instalments during a two-year period. An additional contingent cash payment of USD 0.5 million is payable if certain requirements are fulfilled within three years of the transaction date.

Lineups.com supports bettors by providing confirmed and projected starting lineups and rosters for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, US sports leagues and for fantasy sports. The website considers all kinds of available player and team information, including injuries, news, performance and trends. Lineups.com has a strong market position in most of the regulated US states, including the recently launched states of Michigan and Virginia.

Lineups.com recorded sales of approximately USD 7.5 million in the last 12 months to 30 April 2021. Calculated for the first quarter of 2021, the company’s sales corresponded to roughly 10 percent of Catena Media’s total revenue. As Lineups.com is a sports-focused affiliation product, its sales can be expected to fluctuate significantly with the US sports betting calendar.

The purchase price represents a total cash payment of USD 39.6 million, to be payable in three instalments: USD 25 million on closing, USD 9.6 million on the first anniversary and USD 5 million on the second anniversary of the closing date. In addition, a contingent cash payment of USD 0.5 million will be due if the state of New York allows sports betting within three years of the closing date and certain revenue thresholds are met. No material conditions exist in respect of the transaction’s closure. The acquisition will have a direct positive effect on Catena Media’s EBITDA as of the consolidation date on 4 May 2021.

Michael Daly, CEO Catena Media, commented: “The acquisition of Lineups.com strengthens Catena Media’s leading position in the growing US betting market with a complementary product that fits perfectly into our existing US portfolio. It gives us a second, even stronger, national sports betting affiliation site, alongside thelines.com. This will allow us to capture more market share across North America, as well as to take advantage of shared tools across multiple Catena Media sites. Sam Shefrin, the seller and founder of Lineups.com, will bring his industry and technology focus to the Catena Media team and will work with us for the near future as an exclusive consultant to the business.”

 

With the acquisition of Action Network, Better Collective gains clear market leadership within sports betting media and affiliation in the US and now expects to increase its revenues in the US to more than 100 mUSD by 2022.

Sports betting media group, Better Collective, today announces that it has signed an agreement to acquire 100% of the shares in Action Network, Inc. (“Action”) for 240 mUSD (198 mEUR) on a cash and debt free basis. Founded in 2017 and launched in 2018, Action is uniquely positioned in the US market as the premium sports content and product destination for US sports bettors. A trusted source for sports fans, Action’s media platforms provide an enhanced experience for its users through original sports news content, premium insights, deep menus of odds and proprietary betting tools and data. Action’s diverse revenue model includes a rapidly-growing affiliate marketing business focused on customer acquisition for betting operators in the US as well as subscription products, anchored by Action Pro, Action Labs and Fantasy Labs.

Action continues to benefit from the expanding legal sports betting market in the US. In 2021, Action is expected to achieve revenues approaching 40 mUSD, an increase of over 100% year-on-year, while also generating positive operational earnings in 2021. As more states legalize online sports betting, the potential to further deepen and expand Action’s commercial partnerships with large US-based sportsbooks such as BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and PointsBet   is significant. Action is headquartered in New York, and has approximately 100 employees.

The Transaction

The purchase price amounts to 240 mUSD (198 mEUR) on a cash and debt free basis and will be settled in a cash payment and a 12 mUSD issuance of new Better Collective (BETCO.ST) shares to Action’s management, key employees and certain other individuals. 10 mUSD of the cash payment will be paid on a deferred basis as settlement of certain existing share options in Action. The number of Better Collective shares issued will be determined by the volume-weighted BETCO.ST share price 5 trading days prior to the date of this announcement. Further, the issued Better Collective shares will be subject to a lock-up of between 6 and 24 months following completion of the transaction.

The cash component of the purchase price will be provided through bank financing.

The acquisition is subject to customary regulatory approvals and is expected to be completed in Q2 2021.

Better Collective in the US 

While the US sports betting market has grown rapidly since the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) removed a federal ban on online gambling, only 13 states have legalized online gambling at this point. Many more are expected to follow in the coming years, with the addressable market significantly expanding as a result. Total online sports betting revenues in the US are forecasted to reach 4 bnUSD in 2022 and amount to nearly 40 bnUSD in 2033*.

Following the execution of Better Collective’s acquisition strategy and ongoing investments in the US market, Better Collective’s US business has developed successfully, with high growth and a rapid increase in profitability. The acquisition of Action consolidates Better Collective’s leading position in the affiliate and customer delivery verticals within online sports betting, enabled through a number of strong product platforms. In light of this, and given the continued pace of new states regulating, Better Collective expects the US market to continue growing and its US revenues to surpass 100 mUSD by 2022, with positive and increasing operational earnings.

Action will become an integral part of Better Collective US and will continue to operate as a separate business unit with its current brands, management team, and employees, led by CEO Patrick Keane who will report to Group Management through US CEO, Marc Pedersen. Action will integrate with Better Collective’s current organization where relevant in order to generate efficiencies.

Jesper Søgaard, CEO of Better Collective, says:

“I am thrilled to welcome Action and its employees to Better Collective. This acquisition, which is the largest in Better Collective’s history, gives us a leading position within affiliation in the US and a strong foundation for profiting from the continuous regulation of the US betting market. We add three new, very well positioned US sports media brands to our portfolio and welcome around 100 new colleagues, together representing an invaluable pool of knowledge and expertise on the US sports betting media market. By all accounts, this is a great day for Better Collective.”

Patrick Keane, CEO of Action, says: 

“Today marks a great achievement in the history of Action. In just a few years, our team has managed to build a leading sports betting product and media business in the US market, making us attractive to a leading international player. I am thrilled about this outcome for our employees and investors and we look forward to continuing to forge great relationships with our league, media and sportsbook partners. Under Better Collective’s ownership, we become part of a company with many years of experience and all the resources necessary to further grow our position and develop our offering, to ultimately enhance the betting and entertainment experience for sports fans. We gain new colleagues, career paths and perspectives. I’m looking very much forward to the journey ahead. ”

Financial Targets

Better Collective will consolidate Action into the Better Collective Group from the time of closing. In connection with the acquisition, Better Collective is updating its Financial Targets for 2021:

Better Collective will share more details in connection with its Q1 2021 earnings report that will be released on May 12, 2021.

The acquisition of Action will bring Better Collective’s estimated debt leverage (Net Interest Bearing Debt/EBITDA) above the company’s financial target of <3.0. Due to Better Collective’s strong operating cash flow, the Board of Directors has decided that for the time being, it is acceptable for the company’s debt leverage to exceed the financial target of 3.0, which target remains in place for 2021. The Board will therefore decide upon any potential changes to the company’s long term capital structure in due course.

Advisors

Morgan Stanley acted as sole financial advisor, Bruun & Hjejle and GreenbergTraurig acted as legal advisors, and PwC acted as accounting and tax advisor in connection with the acquisition for Better Collective. Nordea Bank will be providing financing to facilitate the closing of the transaction.

Moelis & Company LLC acted as sole financial advisor and Venable LLP acted as legal advisor to Action. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP acted as advisors to The Chernin Group, the largest shareholder of Action.
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