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Business News

The City Diary: Extrabet - worth a punt?

Slackbelly exposes the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Square Mile

IG Group – the granddaddy of the spread betting world – has appointed accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers to sell its sports betting arm, Extrabet.

This will come as no surprise to readers of this column – which has repeatedly said that the FTSE-250 company has been hawking its sports business around – although it may come as a shock to Extrabet boss Arman Tahmassebi, who insisted earlier this year that there was "no talk of a sale". News of the appointment follows a rationalisation of the division plus a decent World Cup. But the price tag remains a thorny issue and betting industry sources question whether the business, which saw revenues drop by almost 31 per cent last year, is worth much. IG Group and PwC both decline to comment.

Call the Bailiff

Jamie Waller – "undoubtedly Britain's most famous bailiff" according to his own publicity – makes his living collecting from those who've not paid their debts. Somebody's got to, I suppose, but I wonder if the star of the BBC's Beat the Bailiff sees any irony regarding his chosen vocation and his own debt – owed to his company, JBW Group? According to the company's latest accounts, Waller has borrowed £185,197 from the firm, while two companies of which he is a director – JBW Investments and JBW High Court Enforcement – owe £22,025 and £24,605 respectively. He also trousered a £120,000 dividend last year. "Er, er, what's that based on?" asks Waller's spokesman before returning to say that the debt is being paid back on time. "It's a shame you're planning to run a negative story," he adds, "he's a really lovely chap." Yes, bailiffs usually are.

BCG tries to make a Mint

Interdealer broker BGC is in talks to buy smaller rival Mint Partners, which requires further investment after its rapid expansion. Mint – founded six years ago by Richard Barnett and one-time white-collar boxer Tim "Raging" Bullman – has opened offices in New York, Paris and Dubai, as well as moving to a new London HQ and sponsoring Polo in the Park. All of which has been pretty expensive. BGC is one option while, I learn, the company has also been exploring tapping the co-founders' family and friends for a cash call. Mint parries: "It is inappropriate to talk about individual discussions".

Panmure's Rok-y road

Sometimes you have to be brave enough to back one view. Stockbrokers Panmure Gordon became sellers of shares in property group Rok in November 2008, according to share-monitoring site Digital Look, and watched as the price almost doubled over the next eight months. Despite the shares then edging down slightly, the broker suddenly turned bullish – only for the price to maintain its downward trend before slumping last week on news of Rok's accounting failings. Panmure has now reverted to its sell stance. Time to buy?