March 05, 2008

Sportingbet acquires Bulgarian partner

Sportingbet Plc, the Web bookmaker that owns Paradise Poker and Turkey's, bought its Bulgarian marketing partner to expand and said it plans similar takeovers in Greece and eastern Europe.

The purchase of Belmond International Ltd. will cost as much as 11.2 million pounds ($22 million), Sportingbet said yesterday in a statement. Second-quarter profit jumped 14-fold from a year earlier, when earnings were held back by a U.S. crackdown on Internet gaming.

Sportingbet aims to enter more markets as it rebuilds sales after the U.S. ban wiped out more than half of revenue and forced the bookmaker to sell its local unit for $1. The company took over its Turkish marketing partner and Italian unit last year to expand and compete more effectively with rivals such as 888 Holdings Plc, the owner of the Pacific Poker brand.

“Spain, Greece and certain eastern European states remain under the marketing partner model,” Sportingbet said in the statement. “Where the opportunity arises to take further control of these markets on acceptable terms, the group will continue to do so.”

Rise in net income:
Net income jumped to 2.9 million pounds in the three months through January from 200,000 pounds a year earlier. The amount bet by customers gained 30 percent to 364.7 million pounds as more European and Australian gamblers made wagers.

Sportingbet stocks lost almost nine-tenths of their value in 2006 and has dropped 10 percent in 2008. Sportingbet shares rose 10 percent on Feb. 25 after the Sunday Express said former suitor Bwin Interactive Entertainment AG was considering a bid.

The Bwin speculation is “a load of old rubbish,” Chief Executive Officer Andrew McIver, who started the job in October 2006, told journalists. “I can categorically say at the moment Bwin has no intention.”

The amount staked by European customers on sports betting climbed 35 percent to 212.4 million pounds during the quarter. Australian gamblers wagered 136.3 million pounds, up 24 percent.