Online betting giant William Hill is making a move to acquire Tom Waterhouse’s online betting business, adding fire to growing speculation that a sale could be imminent if the UK-based company gets the nod from the Northern Territory Racing Commission.
According to InDaily, the first towards acquiring the Australian company is set to take place at a Northern Territory Racing Commission meeting where the NTRC, which controls the issue and transfer of betting licenses in Darwin, will take into consideration William Hill’s application to have all of Waterhouse’s licenses transferred to William Hill.
Fellow online betting heavyweights Ladbrokes and Bwin also expressed interest in purchasing Waterhouse but now it looks like William Hill has the inside track on negotiations. Should William Hill emerge successful in its buy out of the Waterhouse business, it would mark the company’s second purchase of an online betting company, following this year’s acquisition of Sportingbet, which cost the company a reported $500 million. Incidentally, Sportingbet made its own acquisition back in 2011 when it dropped a reported $183 million to buy another Austrialian online betting agency, CentreBet. No specific price has been thrown out on how much it will cost William Hill to buy the Waterhouse companies, but word out on the street is that the business could be worth between $50 to $500 million, although the likely number is expected to be somewhere in the $50-million range.
Of equal intrigue regarding these developments is the future of Tom Waterhouse and how he will fit into the whole set-up in the event William Hill is successful in acquiring his company. A lower public profile, something that Tom has been forced to do in the wake of numerous controversies he was embroiled in earlier this year, including what was being deemed at that time as his over-exposure on “free-to-air” television and how he was using that platform to promote live odds during live sporting events.
It should also be pointed out that William Hill’s acquisition of Sportingbet hasn’t been met with the kind of results that was being expected of the latter, especially since Wiliam Hill was already paying a steep price on trying to sign up new customers compared to what it has been spending. That was made apparently evident last week when the company posted lower than expected first half earnings for the year that was only exacerbated when its shares fell by seven percent last Friday, an impressionable drop made more surprising after the company’s stocks improved by over 70 percent in the past year.
Despite the bumps in the road William Hill was experiencing with its Sportingbet acquisition, the company’s chief executive Ralph Topping remained optimistic that long term success would eventually outweigh these short-term bumps in the road. “You never buy a perfect business,” Topping said, as quoted by InDaily. “This business has a lot going for it but there are imperfections in it and there is upside for us on the digital side. This was the last significant asset in Australia and we bought it and we take a long-term view of businesses.”
And if the acquisition of the Waterhouse companies gets approved, you can certainly make the case that William Hill is doubling down on that “long-term view of businesses”.