Talks have reached crisis point with Hills and GVC trying to secure a cut-price deal after Sportingbet produced disappointing results in the last quarter (profits are down 35 per cent). The new terms, a joint cash and shares bid, is said to be worth £485m, £45m less than was previously offered. The parties have agreed a further week to finalise terms but it’s thought the new deal will be more attractive to Sportingbet shareholders. Company founder Mark Blandford is among several who would prefer to take up the maximum amount of GVC shares being made available meaning minor shareholders would be able to cash in on the cash component of the deal, currently worth more than 50p a share.
Sportingbet clearly want to sell and William Hill are desperate to get their hands on their Australian business, which is free from the regulatory problems that hamper operations in Europe and the US. So unless a last-minute bid comes in from elsewhere, a change of ownership seems a formality.
Talking of Europe, William Hill have announced that it is pulling out of the Greek market despite making a profit in the last financial year. The country’s chronic financial problems are old news but there is now confusion over gambling permits and tax liabilities. The authorities are threatening financial penalties against bookmakers who don’t have their paperwork in order but there’s confusion in the system and some have clearly decided they’d rather not trade than risk a hefty fine. Betfair also pulled the plug on their Greek operation last month, citing issues with the Greek Gambling Commission as their reason for quitting. The decision could cost Betfair as much as £13m in revenue over the next year but Greece is the second EU nation to lose betting access this year, German punters having their access to the betting exchange halted in July because of a new levy on sporting events.