UK online gambling company Sky Bet is steeling itself for a flotation on the London Stock Exchange, having engaged the services of Rothschild to examine a potential listing, according to a Reuters report this week.
An insider told Reuters that a flotation would value the company at somewhere between £2.5 billion and £3 billion. Sky Bet is part-owned by telecommunications company and broadcaster Sky, which itself is partly owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Its controlling owner is the private investment company CVC.
Remarking on the timing of the proposal, Reuters speculates that, as well as seeking to capitalize on a booming equity market, CVC may believe that a recent regulatory crackdown on the retail betting industry by the UK government might be beneficial to the IPO.
The government is planning to the reduce the maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2. The move threatens thousands of bookmaking shops with closure, and this makes companies that operate purely online a more attractive investment than those that are also reliant on their land-based divisions.
Credit Card Ban Plan
Companies that operate the most FOTBs and are therefore more exposed to the financial fallout from the government’s decision, such as Ladbrokes and William Hill, have seen their stock take a hammering in recent weeks.
But the government may not yet be finished. The Guardian reported on Monday that a ban on the use of credit cards for online gambling is also being considered as part of a wider review of the country’s regulations.
The review has also examined whether there is too much pre-watershed gambling advertising on television, sandwiched between big sporting results that are widely viewed by children.
Any clampdown on payment methods and television advertising will directly impact online gambling companies, which use TV sports events to advertise their popular live, in-play betting features.
Sky’s the Limit
Sky Bet consists of five core brands – Sky Bet, Sky Vegas, Sky Casino, Sky Poker and Sky Bingo – and it also owns odds comparison site Oddschecker.
It began life as a small internet and telephone bookmaking operation called Surrey Sports. Sky, then known as BskyB, inherited Surrey Sports almost by accident, as part of its takeover of parent company, the Sports Internet Group, in 2000. It was rebranded as Sky Bet in 2002.
Sky sold the majority stake in the company to CVC in December 2014 for £800 million, retaining a 20 percent stake in the venture.