90,000 get a free bet

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 90,000 investors whose ambitions to gamble on the stock exchange were suddenly thwarted are to get a free flutter at the local betting shop instead.

William Hill is handing out pounds 20 betting vouchers as a consolation for all the small investors who subscribed to the company's flotation, only to be told on Saturday that it had been scrapped.

The 1,500-branch betting chain, bought by the Japanese bank Nomura two years ago, was due to hit the stock market this month.

However, last week many of the City's big institutional investors thought that the asking price of 135p a share was too high. On Saturday, Nomura decided to sell William Hill instead to two financial companies, Cinven and CVC, for pounds 825m.

By Friday, Nomura had received applications for more than 120 million shares and more than 90,000 cheques. With the race cancelled, Nomura is to give would-be investors a voucher for a ``double'' bet on the Lincoln Handicap and the Grand National.

Placating the investors, Business, page 15