Sportingbet backs new Hills offer

Sporting BetSportingbet is to back an increased takeover offer from Britain's biggest bookmaker William Hill in a deal valuing the online firm at more than £400 million.

The company, which offers sports betting and casino games and owns Paradise Poker, said it would unanimously recommend a 61.1p per share proposal to its shareholders.
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William Hill, in a joint proposal with European gaming company GVC, previously offered 52.5p a share, which valued Sportingbet at around £350 million.

But Sportingbet, which was founded in 1997 and now has more than 700,000 active customers in markets across 26 countries, rejected the initial approach. The firm - previously a bid target for bookmaker Ladbrokes - said the first proposal significantly undervalued the company and its prospects.

The current deal, which including other assets such as bonds values Sportingbet at closer to £530 million, is now subject to various terms and conditions and shareholder approval. William Hill and GVC have until November 13 to make a firm offer.

Guernsey-based Sportingbet was set up by now venture capital investor Mark Blandford, who floated the firm in 2001 and left day-to-day operations in 2006.

The company is now the largest online sports betting provider in several countries including, Australia, Spain, and Greece, while Paradise Poker is one of the world's best known poker rooms. Its sports betting offering covers 31 sports across Europe, America and Asia, with football being the most popular product - 500 football leagues are covered worldwide.

The revised proposal includes a "mix and match" facility under which Sportingbet shareholders will have the chance to apply to receive proportionately more cash or more shares.

It is thought any possible offer would be structured so that William Hill would acquire the Australian and certain other locally licensed businesses of Sportingbet, while GVC would acquire the remaining parts of the business.

William Hill has around 2,300 betting shops and accounts for about a quarter of the market.
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