William Hill, Britain’s largest bookmaker, has confirmed that it is considering the buyout of the minority stake in William Hill Online owned by Playtech. The move would give the company full control of its fastest growing online joint venture.
Ralph Topping, William Hill CEO, said: “We intend to commence the valuation process relating to the minority share in William Hill Online prior to making a decision on this by the end of the first quarter of 2013.
The William Hill Online division was established in December 2008 and Playtech purchased a 29 percent stake in the business for 319.7m. But the relationship turned sour last year as William Hill secured an interim injunction against Playtech for selling its services to the group’s direct rivals such as Ladbrokes.
William Hill has until next month to activate a call option for the stake, and the decision is likely to hang on the price. Both parties will be allowed to hire a bank to try to set a valuation for the stake, which analysts say could be worth up to 500m.
The interactive division has become one of the biggest online gaming operations in Europe during its four-year lifespan. Revenue was up 30 percent year-on-year for the first 6 months of 2012 and the company generated 441.4m profits for the full year.
“Our continuing marketing investment and further innovations underpin progress across the business” added Topping.
Playtech continues to engage in constructive discussions with William Hill regarding the future of the joint venture. The Tel Aviv-based online gaming company said it was committed to a smooth handover of the stake should William Hill decide to exercise its buyout option.
In what is believed to be in connection with the move, the company has also announced senior management changes. Henry Birch would step down as CEO of William Hill Online with immediate effect, leaving the day-to-day running of the business to Andrew Lee, managing director.
Other appointments include Jamie Hart taking over responsibility for the sportsbook and gaming platforms, while Jurgen Reutter assumes the role as head of mobile.
In addition, William Hill said that it would decide by 13th November whether it would make a formal offer to acquire betting platform Sportingbet, in a joint venture with GVC Holdings.