On Saturday, the Telegraph reported that Hills was lending its financial clout to a bid by the Toronto-listed NYX to acquire OpenBet, which supplies technology to the majority of the UK’s top online gambling companies, including Hills.
OpenBet’s private equity owners Vitruvian Partners have reportedly engaged Morgan Stanley to handle the sale of the sports betting industry mainstay. Vitruvian is believed to be seeking upwards of £300m for OpenBet, a healthy premium on the £208m Vitruvian paid when it acquired OpenBet in 2011.
Also among the names bandied about as potential OpenBet suitors is rival gambling tech firm Playtech, which supplies online casino products to the majority of UK-listed firms. Hills and a number of other major UK operators are reportedly uneasy at the prospect of becoming overly dependent on Playtech, which has developed a sharp-elbowed reputation among some of its clients, including Hills, which ultimately felt the need to buy out its former partner in the William Hill Online joint venture.
William Hill has so far been only a bridesmaid in the UK’s recent gambling merger mania, which has seen Betfair join up with Paddy Power, Coral get married to Ladbrokes and GVC Holdings absorb Bwin.party. Hills did make a £744m bid for rival 888 Holdings but the offer was rejected by 888 stakeholders.
With a market cap of only around £65m, NYX is much smaller than OpenBet, but NYX has been on an expansionist tear, Last April, NYX acquired Amaya Gaming’s Chartwell and Cryptologic B2B software businesses, which followed the November 2014 acquisition of Amaya’s Ongame poker business. More recently, NYX acquired Belgrade-based tech firm eGaming Consulting and Montreal-based games developers Side City Studios.