William Hill finally gets IPO away

Its owners have been trying to float William Hill as far back as 1993 when its then owner Brent Walker Group withdrew plans for a float having secured a five year extension to William Hill’s debt. Private equity bidders had been sniffing around William Hill as long ago as 1993 when a consortium of SG Warburg, Electra Investment Trust, Mercury Asset Management, Morgan Grenfell and Midland Montagu expressed interest as did Legal & General Group and Cinven. It is Cinven that finally went the envisaged distance when it coupled with CVC Capital Partners in early 1999 to buy William Hill from Nomura. Nomura had finally persuaded Brent Walker to part with William Hill towards the end of 1997.

When offers were being made for William Hill back in 1993 the price tag attribute to the various bidders ranged between GBP360 million and GBP475 million. Nomura finally bought William Hill for GBP799 million some four years later and 18 months later sold it to Cinven and CVC for GBP825 million. On June 20 William Hill floated at 225 pence per share, (an enterprise value of GBP950 million), which quickly rose to 245 pence per share. The successful float has enabled William Hill to pay down debt, including an offer to buy back its sterling high yield bonds. Schroder Salomon Smith Barney sponsored the offer.

Founded in 1934, William Hill is a provider of fixed-odds bookmaking services, offering odds and taking bets on a wide range of sporting and other events. William Hill delivers its betting products to customers through three principal channels. Betting shops: William Hill has a nationwide network of over 1,540 shops, making it the second largest operator in the UK. A range of numbers betting opportunities and slot machines supplements sports betting.

Telephone betting: William Hill believes it is the market leader in telephone betting, with a current market share of approximately 40 per cent. William Hill has led innovations in telephone betting, having introduced freephone and debit card betting. Telephone betting operates from call centres in Leeds and Sheffield.

Online betting: William Hill accepted its first bet on the Internet in 1998 and since then its Sportsbook website (www.williamhill.co.uk) and online casino have experienced significant growth in the UK and internationally.