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Business deals

Netmarble to acquire casino game maker SpinX for $2.2bn

South Korean developer seeks to diversify portfolio amid global expansion

South Korean online game developer Netmarble is spending big to strengthen its global business.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- Online game developer Netmarble has agreed to acquire Hong Kong-based casino game company SpinX Games for $2.2 billion, in what is being described as the biggest overseas merger and acquisition deal by a South Korean game company.

Netmarble said Monday that it had agreed to buy 100% of Leonardo Interactive Holdings, the parent of SpinX, to diversify its game portfolio as well as strengthen its global business. Netmarble is one of the biggest online game companies in South Korea, along with NCSoft, Nexon and Krafton.

"The social casino game genre is growing continuously around the world," Netmarble co-CEO Lee Seung-won said in a statement. "Especially, SpinX is the fastest-growing company in the genre. With the acquisition, Netmarble added the social casino genre to the main role-playing game genre. We expect this to strengthen our competitiveness in the global market."

The deal marks the biggest-ever foreign acquisition by a South Korean gaming company, according to analyst Douglas Kim on Smartkarma, a website that publishes independent research.

The announcement comes as South Korean game companies are expanding their territory beyond the country, targeting the U.S., China, India and other markets. South Korea exported $6.7 billion of game content in 2019, up 3.8% from the year before, according to Korea Creative Content Agency.

Established in 2014, SpinX ranked No. 3 in the global mobile social casino genre by sales in the second quarter, with its lineup including Cash Frenzy, Lotsa Slots and Jackpot World, Netmarble said.

But Netmarble shares dropped 1.82% to 134,500 won ($117) on Tuesday after a Chinese state media outlet branded online gaming "spiritual opium" and called for more curbs on the industry.

Krafton, best known for its battle royale game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), is scheduled to go public through a listing on the South Korea's benchmark Kospi stock index on Aug. 10.

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