Unibet logo, Stan James, online acquisition

Unibet’s shares rose more than 4 percent on the Swedish stock market in the wake of the acquisition announcement on Friday. (Image: Unibet.com)

Unibet has made a play for the UK market with the acquisition of the online betting arm of Stan James bookmakers.

The company, which is of Swedish origin but headquartered in Malta will acquire Stan James’ internet business, including full rights to use the brand online, for £19 million ($29 million), but none of its high street betting shops, which number over 90 throughout the UK.

Stanjames.com currently offers online sports betting, casino and poker, recording earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of £1.4m last year, although Unibet says it expects to grow profits through more effective marketing, an improved mobile offering and the introduction of live streaming to the website.

Subject to regulatory approval, the transaction is expected to complete in the second half of the third quarter 2015, said Unibet.

Significant Potential 

“We have long been looking at strengthening our position in the UK online market,” said Henrik Tjärnström, CEO Unibet. “Stan James as an operator is one of the most well-respected in the UK market with particular strengths in horse-racing and other British sports.

“Stan James has had a long presence in the British market where there are few companies of this size available for acquisition.

Since Unibet has only recently targeted the UK market there is little overlap between our respective businesses.

Over time we see a significant potential to increase the breadth of the Stan James product range, such as live streaming, casino and improving the mobile offering.”

The regulated UK betting market is one of the biggest in the world, estimated to be worth some £2.7 billion ($4.1 billion), and the announcement sent Unibet’s share price up by more than 4 percent on Nasdaq Stockholm on Friday.

Difficult To Become A Top Player 

“Overall, this deal should not come as a surprise as the business was believed to be up for sale for some time,” Gavin Kelleher, research analyst for Goodbody, told the Racing Post. “In terms of impact on the market, combined with its existing business in the UK, the Unibet business has limited market share so it will still be difficult for it to become a top tier player.”

“Through the combination of Unibet’s expertise in marketing and financial strength, together with Stan James’ high quality sports and racing betting offering aimed at the UK market, I am confident that we can increase substantially the combined group’s market share.” Said Denis Kelly, chief executive of Stan James Online.

The workforce of 150 people employed by StanJames.com in Gibraltar will immediately become Unibet employees, under the terms of EU acquisition rules.