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Rumours rife in Centrebet acquisition


Talk of a GBP 80 million acquisition deal

Persistent rumours that major British online gambling companies are interested in buying the Australian gambling group Centrebet received a boost this weekend with the news that William Hill plc may be among the possible suitors.

The Sunday Times was first out with the news that a deal between the two companies worth an estimated GBP 80 million was in the works, with claims that an executive team from the UK company is already in Australia doing due diligence work.

Centrebet revealed in March this year that it had received "a number" of conditional acquisition proposals as part of a review of consolidation opportunities, both as acquirer and target. The company said no agreement had been reached and discussions could take several months to conclude.

Other companies said to be talking to Centrebet include Will Hill rival Ladbrokes, and the giant Vienna-listed online gambling group Bwin.

Australians' propensity to gamble, and the recent recommendation by the government's Productivity Commission suggesting that regulation may be a wiser course has increased interest in the country's gambling business potential.
Last year Irish bookie Paddy Power bought control of the internet and telephone betting service Sportsbet and IASBet, and Betfair's man in Australia, Andrew Twaits, recently said: "I think Australia is going to be squarely on the strategic map of a lot of those international businesses, so you will probably see more players come into the market."

"William Hill, Ladbrokes and (British group) Coral are companies I would expect, whether it's through acquisitions or starting up themselves, to look at entering the Australian market at some point in the next year or so."

Centrebet was the first bookmaker to go online in the Southern Hemisphere, and was acquired by the SportOdds Group in 2003 for A$ 46.55 million. In 2005, SportOdds merged its Centrebet, SportOdds.com and SuperOdds.co.uk businesses into one entity, known as Centrebet.

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