* William Hill, GVC agree takeover of Sportingbet
* Deal speeds William Hill's move overseas and into mobile
By Keith Weir
LONDON, Dec 20 William Hill, Britain's
largest bookmaker, expanded into the large Australian gambling
market when it and partner GVC Holdings agreed a 485
million pound ($789 million) deal for Sportingbet on Thursday.
William Hill is paying 454 million pounds for its share of
the deal - giving it Sportingbet's Australian operation and an
option to acquire its Spanish business.
Smaller partner GVC will take on the remaining businesses,
which are in countries where regulation is less clear cut and
investment risks are higher as a consequence.
"This is bang in line with our strategy. More online
revenues, more international revenues and more regulated
revenues," William Hill chief executive Ralph Topping said.
"We are laying the foundations today of success for the next
30 years," said Topping, who has been with the company four
The recommended cash and GVC stock deal valued Sportingbet
shares at 56.1 pence, in line with a provisional deal agreed
earlier this month.
William Hill and GVC had proposed a price of 61.1 pence per
share but cut the offer after Sportingbet said quarterly revenue
fell 35 percent.
William Hill is best known for its chain of more than 2,300
betting shops in Britain, a country where it generates more than
90 percent of its revenue.
However, it is expanding online and in overseas markets
where gambling is regulated - buying three businesses in the
U.S. state of Nevada earlier this year.
It has also taken a step towards acquiring full control of
its fast-growing online joint venture, requesting a valuation
for the 29 percent stake held by partner Playtech.
In a potential complication to the Sportingbet deal,
Playtech said the businesses being acquired would have to be
sold on to their William Hill Online joint venture within six
months. Playtech said the acquisition would increase the value
of William Hill Online and hence how much its stake was worth.
"Playtech expects that the potential contribution of the
Sportingbet Activities and associated synergies and cost savings
will be taken into consideration as part of any valuation of
William Hill Online," it said.
Setting out the reasons for the Sportingbet deal, William
Hill said Australia was one of the largest licensed betting
markets in the world.
Sportingbet, which operates in Australia under its own name
and the Centrebet brand, had net gaming revenue there of 87.4
million pounds in the year to end-July 2012 and EBITDA of 34.8
"The Aussie market is very attractive, growth rates are
good, the proportion online is taking of that market is very
good," said Topping.
Spain is also an important gambling market and William Hill
was one of a number of companies to enter the market after new
licences were issued earlier this year.
It said Sportingbet's Spanish business would allow it to
achieve critical mass there more quickly.