Expansion on the cards at spread betting firm - Wednesday 19th of October 2005

SPREAD betting firm Sporting Index was today gearing up for expansion after changing hands in a £75.8m deal.

The group, which allows punters to bet on sporting events online, over the telephone and through Sky television, could move into new countries and product areas after being bought by investment firm HgCapital.

Sporting Index was founded in 1992 and now has around 45,000 customers.

It lets customers gamble on how well sports teams or individuals will perform during an event, betting on a range or "spread" of possible outcomes.

Although the firm only operates in the UK at the moment, the new owner plans to move into other parts of Europe, expanding both organically and by acquiring smaller rivals and introducing new products. HgCapital did not say whether the deal marked a windfall for the management team, but said they were holding on to a "meaningful" stake and would remain with the business, led by Sporting Index chief executive Richard Glynn.

The deal marks a significant profit for investment firm Duke Street Capital, which paid £53m for a major stake in the business in 2002.

Mr Glynn said: "With Duke Streets enthusiastic backing, we have accelerated investment in new products and distribution channels. Sporting Index is now positioned to capitalise on the many opportunities created by this investment."

Mobile

Since it was bought by Duke Capital, Sporting Index has launched a number of new products including BetHiLo - a lower-risk game with a cap on the amount punters can win or lose. The company could potentially move into mobile phone betting once the technology is more widely available, allowing people to place bets while sitting at football matches.

Sporting Index covers 28,000 events a year including football, racing, rugby, cricket, golf, tennis and various American sports.

Almost half of its bets are placed during the course of the action.

It has an estimated 70 per cent share of the UK market in sports spread betting, with online gambling accounting for the majority of its business.

Other recent transactions by HgCapital include the acquisition of Sanctuary Spas products business.

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