Sportingbet happy to get back to normal

Takeover target Sportingbet said it returned to normal trading in November after a quiet spell in the sporting calendar depressed margins.

Sportingbet’s market-leading position in telephone and online gaming in Australia has attracted a £530m takeover bid from Britain’s largest bookmaker, William Hill.

Sportingbet said total revenue for the first quarter to end-October was 35 per cent lower than in the same period of 2011.

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The group’s performance in October was hit by there being only four weekends of sports fixtures compared with five a year earlier.

Australian takings rebounded in November, when Sportingbet’s largest annual betting event, the Melbourne Cup, and the Australian Derby Day fell in the same month, pushing the number of bets placed up 21 per cent on the previous year.

Sportingbet said it is confident it will meet expectations for the year to July 2013.

Chief executive Andrew McIver said: “After challenging trading conditions during the first quarter, I am pleased to report that November has seen a return to normal trading levels, with a particularly strong Australian sports margin.”

The Sportingbet board has given provisional backing to a cash and share approach from William Hill and smaller partner GVC Holdings valuing Sportingbet at 61.1p per share.

William Hill employs more than 3,000 people in Yorkshire, including over 1,300 people in Leeds.

The latest deadline for a formal offer is next Tuesday although this can be extended.

William Hill is mainly interested in the Australian operations, while GVC would take on the business in countries where regulations are less clear-cut.

It is not clear who would take on operations in Spain where amounts wagered fell 57 per cent in local currency.