One of the problems that William Hil
l plc CEO Ralph Topping inherited when he took over the UK online and land gambling group earlier this year was the extensive debt burden the firm is carrying. In an increasingly credit-restricted economy the company was this week negotiating the re-financing of GBP 1.2 billion of its debt with leading British and American banks, reports The Times newspaper.
William Hill has also appointed debt-advisory specialists, believed to be from KPMG, to assist in the discussions, which it hopes to conclude before the release of its preliminary results in February.
The Times opines that William Hill investors are likely to welcome the move as fears grow that credit will be increasingly hard to come by for even the most solid of firms as the economy worsens and debt markets remain frozen.
Shares in William Hill have declined by more than 60 percent over the past year to 208p, reports The Times, commenting that this is largely over concerns about its debt exposure. The company is valued at GBP 726 million against debt of GBP 1.4 billion – GBP 1.2 billion of which matures in 2010. This is largely a legacy of a GBP 500 million deal to buy Stanley Leisure's betting shops in 2005 and a share buy-back that followed.