The glum outlook for the UK economy may force the British government to abandon the sale of the state-owned Tote pool and betting business, the sports minister warned this week.
Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said the government "…will need to be satisfied that it is right to proceed with a sale in the light of current market conditions".
The Tote, which was last year valued for the government at about GBP 400 million according to a Financial Times report, attracted about 40 expressions of interest earlier this year after Sutcliffe said he was considering its sale on the open market.
But the betting industry believes the government will be hard pushed to get anything approaching last year's valuation. "The rumour is that they will be lucky to get GBP 280 million," said an insider at a leading bookmaker.
Sutcliffe maintained that the Tote was "a highly attractive asset which would enjoy significant interest if brought to market in an open auction".
Goldman Sachs, the government's adviser on the Tote, will prepare the groundwork to launch a sale in the autumn, Sutcliffe added.
But it will also provide further data on how the business can realise further value "if, in the light of market conditions, the government decided in the autumn not to proceed to a sale".
The Tote, which has turnover of GBP 2.4 billion, has 540 betting shops and a pool business which could be sold separately.