Betfair shares off to strong start

Sports betting firm Betfair was valued at £1.4bn (€1.6m) on its stock market debut today.

Sports betting firm Betfair was valued at £1.4bn (€1.6m) on its stock market debut today.

The listing represents a major landmark for Andrew Black, a one-time professional gambler, and former City trader Edward Wray. The pair founded the business 10 years ago and saw their combined stake valued at more than £320m (€361m) before the start of trading today.

They both sold around a million shares in the flotation, worth between £14m (€15.8m) and £17m (€19.2m), but still have more than 20% of the business.

Overall, more than £200m (€226m) was raised by shareholders through the sale of 15% of the company. They include Japanese bank Softbank, which reduced its stake from 16% to 11%. No new shares were issued today.

There was a further boost in conditional dealings as shares rose 15% from their opening price of £13 (€14.7) to around £15 (€17), lifting Betfair’s market value to £1.6bn (€1.8bn).

Today’s opening valuation, which was near the top end of Betfair’s previously announced price range, should make the company eligible for inclusion in the FTSE 250 Index.

Betfair claims to be Europe’s largest online sports betting operator, with 2.5 million registered users.

It acts as a betting exchange, matching individual betters to each other. Users can choose the odds at which they want to place a bet, while they can also bet both that an outcome will happen and that it will not happen.

The group, which is licensed to operate in the UK, Australia, Malta, Italy, Austria and Germany, recently announced that revenues grew 13% to £340.9m (€385m) in the year to April 30, although pre-tax profits fell to £17.8m (€20m) from £47.5m (€54m) as a result of planned investment in the business.

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