William Hill to Float on Stock Exchange
By Linda
William Hill, has confirmed it is to float on the London Stock Exchange.

Shares should begin trading next month, with the company expected to have a market value of around £1.1 billion (US$1.6 billion).

The listing will be one of the largest recent floats, eclipsing music retailer HMV's £775 million (US$1.12 billion) move last week.

William Hill's venture capital partners CVC and Cinven are expected to retain a stake of no less than 30% in the listed company.

Chief executive David Harding says the company is to join the market “on the back of an excellent set of results”.

William Hill directors yesterday reported a £38.7m profit before interest and tax for the 13 weeks to the beginning of April, up from £26m a year ago. Turnover surged from £449m to almost £700m.

The share sale has been timed to coincide with the start of the World Cup in South Korea and Japan when interest in betting is expected to be particularly keen. The company said yesterday it had been particularly concerned to wait until it had a year's profit under its belt from the online betting business set up at the time of the 1998 World Cup in France.

Directors also wanted the market to be able to assess the impact of changes in betting laws six months ago under which the old 9% betting duty paid by punters was replaced by a tax on bookies' profits.

David Harding, the William Hill chief executive, said the strong first-quarter performance provided evidence that punters were recycling money previously spent on duty back into betting. Results also confirmed that the online betting arm, which contributed £9.2m to profits last year, was not a 'fly-by-night' operation.

Mr Harding added: 'Looking forward, I believe that William Hill is exceptionally well positioned to benefit from the positive developments affecting the gambling industry, which offer significant opportunities for further growth, both organically and through consolidation.'

The company says it stands to benefit further from proposals enabling it to double the number of slot machines allowed in each betting shop, and from an increase in the size of maximum jackpot payouts.

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