Sportech bags £91m funding

GAMING group Sportech is targeting international expansion of its football pools business after tying up a new £91m funding deal.

Sportech’s chief executive Ian Penrose said it is hoping to take the pools into Asia or elsewhere overseas, either on its own or with partners.

The company has just renegotiated lending facilities with Lloyds Banking Group, giving it more flexibility and financial headroom to grow the business and to do deals.

Sportech is continuing talks with an unidentified party about a “significant acquisition” which it said would generate significant long-term benefits, although Penrose declined to elaborate.

“Interest in British football has never been higher, particularly in Asia, and we want to ensure we follow that,” Penrose told City AM.

Sportech, which owns Littlewoods Gaming, Vernons and Zetters, had been re-negotiating its deal with Lloyds since November, when it sought more flexibility for “important strategic opportunities”.

The firm, which had banking facilities of £99.75m and net debt of £81.5m in November, said its revised deal with Lloyds involved banking facilities of £90.75m, with a later maturity date of June 30, 2013, for £87.75m of the total. Its lawyers are Freshfields and its broker is Investec.

Penrose said: “We now have in place robust facilities, which allow the group to pursue both organic and development opportunities.”

He added: “In the economy, it is still going to be challenging, but overall the industry is fairly resilient.”

Sportech has previously expressed interest in buying the Tote, the state-owned bookmaker that the government has said it may sell.