UK bookmaker William Hill’s struggling Australian online sports betting operation has attracted at least four serious suitors, according to local media reports.
On Tuesday, the Australian Financial Review reported that four companies – Ladbrokes, Bet365, Paddy Power Betfair’s local brand Sportsbet and Australian online operator CrownBet, which was just acquired by PokerStars parent company The Stars Group – had submitted bids for William Hill Australia by Monday’s deadline.
Citigroup, which was tasked with flogging Hills’ Australian division, will reportedly select a winner by week’s end. The sale is expected to fetch around A$200m (US$156m) and the transfer of control could come as early as the end of March, assuming the selected winner finds no dark secrets lurking in the company’s balance sheets.
William Hill put its struggling Aussie operation under review in January, following the passage of new restrictions on credit betting and in-play wagering, as well as the imposition of state-level point of consumption taxes. William Hill booked a £238m impairment charge on the Aussie operation in last week’s FY17 report. The site is estimated to control a 5% chunk of Australia’s regulated online betting market.
William Hill Australia is led by Tom Waterhouse, whose eponymous betting firm was acquired by Hills in 2013. The AFR suggested the winning bidder would likely push for a lengthy non-compete clause for Waterhouse, whose name and face are well familiar to Aussie bettors.
Hills’ Aussie division reported FY17 turnover of A$2.55b, revenue of A$201m and an operating profit of just under A$30m. Hills dramatically slashed marketing spending in the second half of the year based on the company’s increasing lack of faith in the longevity of its Australian operation.
The Stars Group’s interest is probably the most intriguing, given the company’s just announced CrownBet deal. The company’s Betstars betting brand hired former William Hill Online managing director Andrew Lee just last month, so maybe Lee had some insights to share that piqued The Stars Group’s interest.