Sportingbet has begun a roadshow of potential investors as the online gambling company seeks to raise all or part of the £125m ($204m) it needs to buy Australian betting operator Centrebet.
The UK-listed company, whose biggest markets are in Turkey, Greece and Spain, said it was in advanced talks with Centrebet for a cash deal, priced at A$2 a share.
“An acquisition would accelerate Sportingbet’s strategy of increasing its exposure to regulated markets and of geographic diversification,” Sportingbet said. “It would also enhance Sportingbet’s position as one of the leading fixed-odds bookmakers in the fast-growing Australian market.”
Completion of the deal would give Sportingbet a third of the Australian online betting market, rivalling Paddy Power, the Dublin-based operator.
It described synergy benefits as “material” and estimated the deal would be earnings enhancing in 2012-13.
Sportingbet’s move underpins the market’s preference for online gambling companies operating in fully regulated jurisdictions. Its shares closed up 2¼p at 48¼p.
Ivor Jones, a Numis analyst, said Sportingbet’s share price had been hit by worries over its exposure to markets that were either unregulated or not yet regulated.
While Turkey remains an unregulated market, the moves by Spain and Greece towards regulation, though welcome, also present cost pressures for companies such as Sportingbet in the form of taxation and advertising.
“If the company can raise fresh equity and acquire Australia’s Centrebet, the majority of profit will come from this fast-growing, already-regulated market. We believe this would prompt a material re-rating of the shares,” Mr Jones said.
It would also make Australia Sportingbet’s biggest revenue contributor.
Andy McIver, chief executive, has previously said that he was looking to avoid reliance on any single market, after the company was scarred by its enforced exit from the US in 2006 because of a clampdown on online gambling.
People close to the situation said the company was working towards announcing completion of the deal when it reports its third-quarter figures at the end of this month and taking possession of Centrebet in August.
Sportingbet, which had a market capitalisation of £233m before the statement was issued, has frequently been named as a likely participant in the expected consolidation of online gambling.