By Pamela Barbaglia and Stephen Jewkes
LONDON – Europe’s biggest utility Enel has emerged as a frontrunner to take control of Italian payments firm Mooney as part of a joint bidding proposal with Intesa Sanpaolo, one of Mooney’s existing investors, two sources told Reuters.
Mooney, which provides payment services across a network of 50,000 betting shops across Italy, is controlled by CVC Capital Partners while Intesa owns 30% of the business.
The consortium of Enel and Intesa Sanpaolo is expected to trump competition from private equity funds, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Enel declined to comment while Intesa and CVC were not immediately available.
CVC formed Mooney by breaking up the gaming and payment operations of Italian betting firm Sisal Group, a company it bought in 2016 from investment firms Permira, Apax and Clessidra.
The London-based private equity firm hired advisers early this year to review a sale or stock market listing of the business, whose core earnings dropped 15.8% last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the termination of a contract with Postepay.
Mooney reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of 59.5 million euros ($67.17 million) in 2020 from 70.7 million euros in 2019.
It could be valued at between 1.2 and 1.3 billion euros in a sale, one of the sources said.
The company has also drawn interest from a series of U.S. buyout funds including Searchlight Capital but Enel’s partnership with Intesa Sanpaolo is giving its bidding plan a competitive edge, the sources said.
Intesa sees Mooney as a strategic asset as it helps steering its branches towards higher-margin services like wealth management and insurance while still providing basic payment services to its retail clients.
($1 = 0.8858 euros)