William Hill bids to sieze full control of online venture

BOOKMAKER William Hill took a step towards full control of its fast growing online joint venture, requesting a valuation for the 29 per cent minority stake held by partner Playtech.

The company, Britain’s largest bookmaker, said group operating profit rose 26 per cent in the 13 weeks to September 25 and was 17 per cent higher in the year to date. Its closest rival Ladbrokes reported flat third-quarter profit on Thursday.

“We are also announcing today that 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,” said chief executive Ralph Topping.

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The William Hill Online unit was set up in December 2008 as a joint venture with software group Playtech. It made an operating profit of £106.8m last year and reported a 42 per cent rise in profit in the third quarter of 2012.

Both sides will be allowed to hire a bank to try to set a valuation for the stake, which analysts say could be worth up to £400m.

Playtech said it was committed to a smooth handover of the stake should William Hill decide to exercise its buyout option.

William Hill also announced management changes in the Online business, putting Andrew Lee in charge as managing director. Lee joined William Hill in March and has been running its mobile operations.

The betting firm is already seeking to buy online gaming company Sportingbet in a £530m deal with smaller company GVC Holdings.

William Hill wants to gets its hands on Sportingbet’s Australian operations as part of an international expansion which has seen it buy three businesses in the US state of Nevada.

William Hill employs around 3,000 staff in Yorkshire, of which about 1,100 are based in Leeds.