SBC News News International eyes Racing Post takeover

News International eyes Racing Post takeover

SBC News News International eyes Racing Post takeover
Jake Pollard

News International, the publisher of The Sun and The Times, is in negotiations with the owners of the Racing Post over a potential acquisition of the UK’s ‘horse racing bible’, SBC and Gaming&Co can reveal.

The Racing Post is part of betting media, content and data provider Spotlight Sports Group, which is owned by private equity fund Exponent.

Taking over Racing Post would fit into News International’s long-standing ambition to make further inroads into the online betting and gaming space.

The media group has attempted a number of forays into UK online betting in recent years, most notably when it launched the SunBets website in partnership with the Australian giant Tabcorp in 2016. The site closed two years later with Tabcorp having to pay nearly £40m in compensation to the publisher.

Early talks saw Exponent value the the Racing Post at close to £300m, but although News International is keen on agreeing a deal, Gaming&Co understands that it considers the figure to be much too high and is working to acquire the asset for under £200m.

News International still runs Sun-branded bingo and slots sites, but on the publishing side it has had more success following an affiliate model and drives a substantial chunk of its UK revenues from affiliate traffic derived from its Dream Team fantasy football and Sun Racing websites.

The Racing Post launched in 1986 and has had different owners over the years, including Trinity Mirror (now Reach), the publisher of the Daily Mirror. The ownership of the Racing Post name is held in perpetuity by its founder, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, one of the world’s leading racehorse owners.

Exponent has owned the title since 2016 and has been credited with expanding its reach and that of Spotlight as a whole by focusing on digital output and turning the Post into a super-affiliate. Spotlight also owns the affiliate websites of Free Super Tips, MyRacing, the US-focused Pickswise and the data provider Superfeed.

Spotlight’s most recent accounts showed that its 2022 revenues were up 9% to £83.5m and adj. EBITDA was down 14.5% to £17.6m, while consolidated losses were up 21% to £27m.

The group has a liability of £114.4m, which it said was due to accrued interest and goodwill amortisation. “This does not adversely affect the going concern assumption given that in January 2023 the group secured financing through to 2030,” it added.

A sale of the Racing Post would fit into Exponent’s broader plans to sell SSG. In 2021 news emerged that it had hired the investment bank PJT Partners to handle a £500m sale of the group. At the time super-affiliate Better Collective was a strong favourite to take over, but the transaction failed to materialise.

News International and Spotlight Sports Group did not reply to press enquiries.

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This article is published by SBCNews in partnership with Gaming&Co.

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