A £ 2.9 billion takeover by Caesars Entertainment has been negotiated by William Hill, but more transactions are on the cards as the American casino giant looks likely to sell off the bookmaker’s companies outside the US.
On Monday, Hills said they were “minded” to consider the bid from the owner of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, which already owns a 20 percent interest in the US activity of William Hill and is trying to tap the burgeoning demand for sports betting there.
Last week, they disclosed that they had received takeover offers from both Caesars and private equity giant Apollo, but Caesars seemed to have shut out the opposing offer when it declared that if Apollo ‘s bid prevailed, it would terminate aspects of the joint venture with Hills in the US.
Roger Devlin, president of William Hill, said the company’s board agreed that the Caesars offer, which is subject to shareholder approval, was the best choice, “at an attractive shareholder price.”
He added: “It recognises the significant progress the William Hill group has made over the last 18 months, as well as the risk and significant investment required to maximise the US opportunity given intense competition in the US and the potential for regulatory disruption in the UK and Europe.
“Under the revitalised senior leadership team, William Hill has been delivering on its strategy and potential. William Hill is one of the world’s leading betting and gambling companies, with a long and proud heritage.
“It is one of the most recognised brands globally. Over recent years, it has transformed from a business once heavily reliant on UK retail into a company that is truly diversified by geography and channel, providing a stable standalone platform for future growth.”
Caesars said its strategic focus was on “opportunities immediately evident in the US market” and that it was their aim to find “suitable partners or new owners for non-US businesses of William Hill,” a step it will take “in the short term following completion of the acquisition.”
Established in 1934, William Hill operates around 1,400 betting shops in the UK and employs around 8,000 people.
Devlin added: “For now, it is very much business as usual. Employees will be kept fully informed through this process. In terms of our UK and international businesses, we believe they have a strong future ahead and we will work with Caesars to find suitable partners to further the long-term growth prospects of these businesses.”
Caesars said the acquisition could result in revenues from sports betting and online gaming generating between $600 million and $700 million next year.
Tom Reeg, the US company’s chief executive, said: “William Hill’s sports betting expertise will complement Caesars’ current offering, enabling the combined group to serve our customers in the fast-growing US sports betting and online market.
“We look forward to working with William Hill to support future growth in the US by providing our customers with a superior and comprehensive experience across all areas of gaming, sports betting, and entertainment.”
William Hill’s share price closed up 1.39 per cent at 278p on Wednesday.