Sportingbet In Takeover Delay As William Hill Asks For More Time

Has the shine come off online gaming?

One leading company in the field, Sportingbet, has been hit by £46 million of losses in the last financial year, and has just seen a takeover offer from William Hill delayed.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that betting giant William Hill had been given more time to finalise a £485m takeover of Sportingbet; it had reportedly been attracted by the prospect of owning Sportingbet's online business in Australia.

Separately, GVC Holdings - which is making a joint bid - will take over the company's operations in areas where regulation is less clear cut.

The companies have provisionally agreed a cash and shares deal which would value Sportingbet shares at 56.1 pence each. William Hill is making a joint bid with smaller betting firm GVC Holdings.

But while takings were up in Australia by 11% according to Stock Market Wire, the European division saw amounts wagered fall by 30% in November, and by 5% in emerging markets.

“As Sportingbet waits for the delayed bid from William Hill and GVC this Friday (21 December), it's not hard to see why a takeover is the best way forward," said business analyst Nick Hood from Company Watch.

"The business is enduring a battering in Europe, which is further financial damage that their small gains in Australia and emerging markets do little to counteract. With this trading profile, the decision last month by the bidders to re-negotiate their offer downwards was inevitable.

“Sportingbet's overall financial position looks very fragile, with a huge £53m hole in its working capital resources and intangible assets virtually double the net worth, meaning that its liabilities exceed its tangible assets by around £95m. Add in losses of £46m in its last financial year and our financial health rating of only 2 out of a possible 100 is the result. Not a pretty financial picture.”

Ben Yearsley, head of investment research at Charles Stanely Direct, added: "Sportingbet has had a tough last quarter with net cash on the balance sheet falling. Its suitor, William Hill, sees Australia as the jewel in the crown, which has had solid growth in recent months.

"However, it is unsurprising that this William Hill led bid has been revised downwards amid current lacklustre trading and the deadline extended until this Friday. In an increasingly competitive environment size matters, therefore it would be surprising if a formal bid wasn't made by Friday's deadline as it seems to fit for all parties - the obvious question is at what price though."