Sunday October 14,2012 :  SPECULATION GROWS ON WILL HILL BUY OUT OF WHO JOINT VENTURE (Update)
 
Business media reports suggest that buy-out of Playtech's interest may be announced next Friday with Q3 results
 
Brit bookie firm William Hill plc.’s at times fractious partnership with Playtech in the William Hill Online joint venture is again the subject of speculation in the UK business press, with industry observers opining that the giant bookmaker is set to announce a buy-out of Playtech's 29 percent interest as soon as next Friday, when the company's Q3 results are due.
 
The four-year-old partnership has been financially successful if on occasion rather contentious, and Will Hill CEO Ralph Topping is on record as having ambitions to take the whole operation over; it is known that talks have been on-going between the partners.
 
Online activity is a major business generator for William Hill plc, and WHO contributed over a third of the bookmaker's $441.4 million in profits last year. This could be a propitious moment for Topping to exercise the first of two contractual call options built in to the original agreement.
 
How much William Hill would have to pay to wily Playtech major shareholder Teddi Sagi and his colleagues is open to conjecture, with industry analysts suggesting a wide price range that starts at GBP 225 million and goes as high as a rather hopeful GBP 500 million, according to one newspaper report.
 
Back in 2008 Playtech coughed up $319.7 million for its share of WHO, additionally providing its technical know-how and staff experience.
 
There is a provision in the original agreement that covers a situation in which a deal cannot be struck; this entails an independent bank assessment on the value of the company.
 
In related news, William Hill's other acquisition drive – the takeover of Sportingbet plc in tandem with GVC – is closing in on the stock exchange October 16 cut-off date by which potential buyers have to put up or shut up.
 
Thus far the first Will Hill-GVC offer of GBP350 million has been spurned by Sportingbet , leaving Topping and GVC's Ken Alexander two choices: apply for an extension or up the ante.