By Geoff Percival
Boylesports expects to have a significant highstreet presence in the UK and an online offering in at least one emerging market within the next year.
Growth in the UK, where Boylesports already has an online presence, will likely be on a region-by-region basis largely concentrated on northern Britain. The move is likely to see the company acquire existing independent bookmakers chains, with it ultimately eyeing a portfolio of around 100 shops in any one region.
However, any deal will be reliant on the dust settling after an eventual final ruling on maximum betting stakes for fixed-odds betting terminals in UK shops.
A ruling, which could be made next month, is due to decide between £2 and £50 for maximum bets (€2.50 to €55); industry sources expecting a level around £15.
The smaller the amount will mean the higher the loss, from this big earner, will be for all players.
It could lead to numerous consolidation opportunities, particularly among the UK’s independent bookmakers.
The UK has been a long-held expansion target for the Dundalk, Co Louth-headquartered betting firm but the company is aiming for aggressive growth in the European online market, and beyond.
Boyle’s chief financial officer, Mark O’Neill, told the Irish Examiner said while markets such as Australia and the US are of no interest at present, mainland Europe, Asia and Africa are all under consideration.
He said either through cash reserves/ generation or lending potential the company has ample capacity to look at investing in growth opportunities in multiple markets simultaneously.
Boyle’s is currently debt free. “If we want to scale the business we have to look internationally. The UK will always be on our radar,” said Mr O’Neill.
Boylesports saw 20% revenue growth in its UK online business last year, beating the industry average, and Mr O’Neill said any retail expansion can feed off that existing brand awareness.
The company is a former shirt sponsor of Sunderland Football Club. It lost out in 2016 to Stan James and Betfred in its bid to buy more than 350 UK-based shops being offloaded to make way for the merger of Ladbrokes and Coral.
Mr O’Neill said that despite a preference for phased growth and a regional UK focus, the Ladbrokes experience, which reportedly saw Boyle’s bid more than what the shops eventually sold for, would not put the Irish company off looking at bigger deals if they should arise.
The company has not yet reached saturation point in its Irish retail arm either despite a flurry of recent acquisitions, including the purchase of west of Ireland chain JP Bookmakers putting Boyle’s on the cusp of its long-standing target of 250 Irish shops.
In the last year the company has opened 40 outlets here and plans more, with the bulk of them likely to be through acquisition.
Last year saw Boylesports’ online revenues grow by 30%, but retail still managed a 10% improvement on 2016 levels.
Mr O'Neill said:
He estimates that around 200 independent players remain in the Irish market.