William Hill looking at joint bid for Sportingbet

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The Independent Online

Another bookie is ready to take a punt on the online gambling group Sportingbet, it emerged yesterday.

William Hill, Britain's largest bookmaker, said it had its eye on the Australian part of the company, which was the subject of failed takeover talks with Ladbrokes last year.

William Hill is working with GVC Holdings, a rival of Sportingbet, and said the two were at the "preliminary stages of considering a possible joint offer".

The main prize for William Hill would be Sportingbet's Australian business, which provides the vast majority of its profits. The envisaged deal would also, it said, see it acquire "certain other locally licensed businesses", while GVC would be left with the remainder. Any potential offer, it said, would be mostly in cash with an "element" made up of GVC shares.

However, William Hill did caution that a formal approach had not yet been made, and Sportingbet confirmed that its board had not received an approach.

Sportingbet is no stranger to takeover attention, having entered into bid talks last year with Ladbrokes. However these failed amid concerns over Sportingbet's operation in Turkey – where internet gambling is outlawed – which it subsequently sold to the GVC-backed East Pioneer Corporation for at least £125m.

Yesterday's news prompted Sportingbet's share price to jump 7.25p to 51p, giving the company a market value of £340m.

Takeover regulations mean that William Hill and GVC have a "put up or shut up" deadline of 16 October to make a formal offer or walk away.