Rumours earlier this month that Betfair may be seriously considering a public listing resurfaced this week as news that banking advisers are to be consulted appeared in the media.
The Telegraph reported that the giant international betting group could be considering a GBP1.5 billion flotation after shareholders agreed to call in bankers to discuss the group's options.
"Bertie Black and Ed Wray, Betfair's founders, have agreed for meetings to be held with banking advisers over the coming weeks to discuss a potential flotation in what would be the UK's first major listing since the financial crisis hit," the Telegraph reported.
"Betfair is keen to raise new capital in a bid to lead the consolidation of the global gaming industry and a flotation would give it the necessary means."
Wray and Black could make hundreds of millions on a listing, the newspaper opines, confirming the duo as among Britain's most successful entrepreneurs. The two are major shareholders with a 25 percent stake, along with Japanese investor SoftBank, which owns a further 23 percent and is understood to be keen to realise a return on its GBP 355 million investment three years ago.
"While Betfair has seen strong growth since then, equity market valuations have fallen sharply since the financial crisis hit and Softbank's stake would likely be valued at a similar level to three years ago," the Telegraph surmises, adding that as the founders of Betfair, Wray and Black could currently be worth around GBP 190 million each, but could scoop a further GBP 350 million or more between them were they to offload their stakes in the company.
Private equity investors and management own the remaining 25 percent of Betfair.
A public listing is not the only option the company has, should it wish to raise further capital. Betfair could persuade existing shareholders to ante up with further funds. It is believed that the company may need more capital to acquire other companies as industry the trend toward consolidation continues.
Interestingly, the Telegraph report notes that experts in the gambling industry believe that the legalisation of online gambling in the United States could be lifted as early as next (2010) year, a move that would be expected to lead to a pick-up in mergers and takeovers in the sector. 888 and Partygaming, the online gaming companies, are thought likely to be involved in any consolidation moves.
Betfair revealed record full-year results earlier this month. Revenues rose 27percent to GBP 303 million in the year to April 30, with active users up 25percent to 652 000. EBITDA was recorded as up 25 percent at GBP 72 million, despite ongoing investment. The company handles around 2 billion P2P bets a year, an average of 6.4 million trades a day...more than on all European stock exchanges.
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