William Hill swoop for Swedish gaming firm Mr Green in £242 million deal
William Hill are set to buy Swedish-listed online gaming firm Mr Green in a deal worth £242 million, helping reduce their exposure to the UK market and giving them a ready-made base in the European Union after Brexit.
Mr Green (MRG), which also operates the Redbet brand, is licensed in Denmark, Italy, Latvia and Malta as well as Great Britain and Ireland and is expect to obtain licences in Sweden by the end of the year, giving Hills an expanded footprint across Europe as well increasing their digital business.
The UK market is becoming increasingly tough for William Hill with as many as 900 of their more than 2,300 betting shops in danger of closure after FOBT stakes are reduced to £2 next October, while the government increased remote gaming duty to 21 per cent from 15 per cent in Monday's Budget.
Explaining the rationale behind the offer William Hill chief executive Philip Bowcock told the Racing Post: "I have spoken recently about diversification. We know we are heavily reliant on the UK market and what we need to think about is how we diversify to make sure we get more revenues from other markets
"This provides that and takes our international revenues from about 14 per cent to about 21 per cent but just as importantly Mr Green is a significant growth engine.
"Mr Green is a leading brand, it is the leading casino brand in Germany and number three in Austria – for example – and clearly they have significant presence in the Nordics and Sweden in particular."
The deal also enables Hills to use their sports betting knowledge Bowcock said, adding: "Their revenue mix is about 90 per cent casino and ten per cent sports so we will be able to utilise our sportsbook expertise to cross sell."
William Hill are set to retain their base in Gibraltar for online customers based in the UK but have been looking for an alternative location in the EU to continue international operations after Brexit in March.
"This also gives us a ready-to-go international hub," Bowcock said. "We are having to move our international operations from Gibraltar into another location – we were actually going to go to Malta anyway.
"So what we will do is drop our international operations straight into their Malta hub, where they have in excess of 300 people."
Bowcock added: "I think is is a sensibly priced transaction which gives us significant opportunities to grow internationally and gives us that hub in Malta."
The MRG board has recommended the offer to shareholders, the firm said.
William Hill's chief digital officer Ulrik Bengtsson, who has a strong background in working with Nordic online gaming businesses through his time at Betsson, will be responsible for leading the integration of MRG within the group.
Analysts at Goodbody described the news as "a positive deal" for Hills, whose share price closed up 2.20p at 210.20p.
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