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William Hill to End Playtech JV

Troubled ties to be broken

William Hill to End Playtech JV

Operator William Hill is looking to end its online joint venture with platform supplier Playtech.

“We’ve had this colorful relationship for three years, but it can’t continue in its current form,” Ralph Topping, William Hill’s CEO, told the Financial Times. “The freedom for the development of our online business must lie with William Hill.”

Topping said he expected a decision on the joint venture by “late summer.”

In 2008, Playtech obtained a stake in William Hill Online in exchange for providing for online casino and poker software as well as marketing personnel dedicated to William Hill Online websites.

There have been a number of twist points between the two partners, but things came to a head in September 2011. At that time, William Hill Online staff in Tel Aviv walked out of the office to protest a rumored move of operations to Gibraltar.

Ivor Jones, an analyst at Numis Securities, told FT that William Hill is unlikely to overpay for Playtech’s 29 percent stake in William Hill Online just to have complete control.

“Playtech has a shareholding in, and a strategic veto over William Hill Online. We don’t believe the William Hill management will overpay for the shareholding simply to eliminate the veto,” said Jones.

William Hill reported group revenue rose from £1.07 billion in 2010 to £1.14 billion in 2011.

The operator said it plans to increase emphasis on foreign expansion. Last year, 92 percent of revenue was generated in the U.K. William Hill launched an Italian website in July 2011 and expects to complete the $55 million acquisition of three U.S. sports betting businesses in the coming months.

Excluding exceptional items, pre-tax profit rose 9 percent to £239.4 million in 2011.

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