William Hill's online punt

William Hill's chief executive Ralph Topping said the bookmaker could swell to a £5bn business within five years as it spent £424m yesterday to take full control of its booming online operation.

The deal – buying out software firm Playtech's 29 per cent stake – gives it a freer hand to invest in the online business, valued at £1.5bn.

The bookmaker is currently worth £2.9bn and on the fringes of the FTSE 100. Mr Topping said: "I don't think it is beyond the realms of possibility that in the next three to five years it could reach £5bn."

The company is on track to complete the £460m acquisition of Sportingbet's Spanish and Australian operations and is eyeing more growth in the "exciting" US market.

The boom in mobile betting helped fuel a 48 per cent rise in William Hill's pre-tax profits to £277.7m last year.

Its sportsbook app – followed last December by an iPad app – brought in more than 90,000 new customers and online revenues grew over 20 per cent for the third year in a row.

This contrasts with the high street shops where bets were 1 per cent lower than in 2011.

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