William Hill gets extra time for Sportingbet bid

LONDON Tue Nov 13, 2012 1:10pm IST

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LONDON (Reuters) - William Hill (WMH.L), Britain's largest bookmaker, has been given until next month to submit a formal bid for online gaming company Sportingbet SBT.L following a 530 million pounds ($841 million) takeover approach.

The Takeover Panel, which oversees mergers and acquisitions, has extended the deadline for an offer until 12 p.m. EDT on December 4 to allow discussions to continue between Sportingbet, William Hill and joint bidder GVC Holdings (GVC.L), Sportingbet said.

The original deadline was due to expire later on Tuesday but an extension was anticipated given the complexity of three-party talks.

William Hill and smaller partner GVC Holdings (GVC.L) won provisional backing from the Sportingbet board last month for a cash and share approach valuing Sportingbet at 61.1 pence per share.

The main prize for William Hill is Sportingbet's operations in Australia. William Hill makes most of its revenues in Britain but is expanding overseas and bought three businesses in the U.S. state of Nevada earlier this year.

Australia is the mainstay of Sportingbet's business. The company is a market leader in Australian telephone and online gaming and that accounted for almost 70 percent of company revenues last year.

William Hill is also interested in taking on Sportingbet's business in Spain, a country with a keen interest in sport and where regulations were clarified earlier this year.

The complication for William Hill is to try to separate out the Spanish business from operations in other parts of Europe where the regulations are less clear-cut.

Partner GVC is planning to acquire those operations in "grey markets" where regulatory risks are higher.

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