Following on from our blog post at the beginning of May, another suitor has registered their interest in William Hill’s retail operation.
Boylesports is an Irish bookie that recently entered the UK high street market when everyone else seemed to be selling off and scaling down, and now they are eyeing a potential deal that could catapult them into the big leagues.
The interesting thing is that it wouldn’t be the first time they have swooped in on William Hill’s cast offs.
At the beginning of 2020 Hill’s decided to offload their Northern Ireland shops along with two on the Isle of Man, and it was Boylesport who took the shops off their hands. It was the biggest transaction in the company’s 38 year history at the time.
Just a year earlier Boylesports hopped across the Irish Sea for the first time when they acquired Wilf Gilbert’s chain of retail stores in the Midlands, so they are certainly in a period of expansion with momentum on their side.
Could 2021 be the year they really go big?
Can Boylesports Realistically Afford to Buy William Hill?
Well they are certainly keen and have been expanding rapidly over the last few years, but William Hill’s fleet of retail stores number around 1,400, and are said to be valued at £1.5 billion if business analyst’s calculations are anything to go by – that’s not cheap.
What’s more, Boylesports have competition; Apollo Global Management, the Shaked family of 888 fame, and also potentially Betfred – although the Competitions and Markets authority might have something to say about Fred Done grabbing a further 1,400 high street stores. The point is though, that these are much bigger fish and have much fatter wallets.
However, Boylesports are a rapidly growing business, are debt free, and could also go into partnership with others to raise the cash; there are ways to get these deals across the line, and if profit potential is good there will be no shortage of investors willing to ‘help’.
The Irish bookie have long made it known that their ambition is to expand across the UK in a big way, and this is a once in a decade opportunity for them to do that quickly:
“BoyleSports would certainly be interested in acquiring some or all of William Hill’s UK shops, or indeed any other opportunity that makes sense for our business. The sale of the William Hill estate presents us with a rare opportunity to achieve the retail scale we have been targeting.”
This statement from the company presents the option of sharing the bounty with other companies, and this could be a happy half way house that sees Boylesports expand their portfolio of 21 UK shops without having to stump up over a billion quid.
The sad thing of course is that the William Hill name could disappear from our high streets for good if, for instance, Betfred and Boylesports struck a deal to split the portfolio; whereas Apollo Global would be more likely to run the shops under the current brand.
Why a Boylesports Takeover Could be Great for UK Punters
In Ireland, betting shops are a little different.
Chiefly, they offer punters a more premium betting experience and generally invest more time and money into making their shops feel welcoming, comfortable and homely.
For example, when Boylesports purchased William Hill’s NI retail fleet, they spent £4 million refurbishing and redeveloping the unloved outlets. They upgraded all of the tech, improved the lighting and furnishings, added aircon, etc. Every single improvement was experience enhancing for the customer, but didn’t really do much for the business’s bottom line – not on the face of it anyway.
But if given a choice between a smelly outdated bookie in a cold and soulless shopping precinct, all bare wooden tables and metal chairs; or a pleasant, fresh, store with comfy seating, cinema style viewing, complimentary refreshments and mood lighting, which would you go for?
Boylesports understand that attracting customers with an appealing betting environment is as important as providing tasty odds and eye catching promotions, and if they get hold of 1,400 new stores across the UK, then punters are going to feel the benefit of that.
What’s more, competing brands will have to up their game unless they want to lose footfall, so we could see industry wide renovations and high street bookies transformed into places to sit and relax with friends as much as to get a bet on.
Quick coffee at Boylesports anyone?