William Hill could be sold to Caesars

By Noah Taylor Updated
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One of the world’s largest casino and gambling businesses is in advanced discussions to acquire a British gambling firm. 

Pokies.com reports that Caesars Entertainment is discussing a takeover of William Hill for A$5.27 billion, with the news breaking on the London Stock Exchange on September 28. 

William Hill issued a statement confirming the talks with Caesars were at an “advanced stage”.

Caesars Entertainment is paying cash for all William Hill shares at a premium of 25 per cent of their current price.

The announcement comes 48 hours after William Hill revealed it received two separate proposals for the takeover, including one from Apollo Management International.

Shares in William Hill soared off the back of the news, as William Hill’s shareholders recommended the deal to shareholders.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused problems for the gambling industry, with more than $770 million wiped off William Hill’s value in March.

The bookmaking giant faced poor trading figures due to the pandemic and its share price continually fell, to the point where the company was valued at A$647 million.

Caesars Entertainment isn’t forking out this huge outlay to be kind, but instead see William Hill as a viable business.

The company doesn’t have a presence in Australia, but business is booming in the United States, where it has 170 sites in 13 states and profits continue to rise.

This is because of the long-standing ban on sports betting in the United States being lifted, with more states allowing residents to bet on sports.

Caesars Entertainment already owns 20 per cent of William Hill’s operations in the US.

Chief executive buoyed by potential deal

Caesars’ chief executive Tom Reeg said he saw the merger of Caesars with Eldorado Resorts in July, worth nearly $25 million and is now excited to be at the forefront of the William Hill deal. 

“The opportunity to combine our land-based casinos, sports betting and online gaming in the United States is a truly exciting prospect,” Mr Reeg said.

“William Hill’s sports betting expertise will complement Caesars’ current offering, enabling the combined group to better 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.”

There’s a long way to go before the deal is settled though, with Caesars to complete due diligence checks to assist the deal progressing smoothly.

A date of the second half of 2021 has been penciled in as a completion date.

Shares in Caesars climbed four per cent on the back of the takeover news, with investors delighted to hear William Hill will add revenue to the company’s accounts.

William Hill to close 119 UK betting shops

Popular bookmaker William Hill said it is shutting 119 betting shops in the UK.

Yahoo News reported in August that the company, which has 1,500 UK outlets said it did not expect customers to return in the numbers seen before the COVID-19 pandemic.

It said about 300 staff were impacted and most had been redeployed elsewhere.

William Hill said it is repaying 24.5 million pounds of UK furlough funds as trade has recovered well post-lockdown.

Its comments come as it reported pre-tax profits of 141 million pounds in the first six months of 2020, compared with a loss of 63 million pounds last year.

Its revenues fell by a third though, to 554 million pounds, reflecting the impact of lockdown and so many sporting events cancelled.

William Hill employs 7,000 people in the UK and a further 5,000 people in 9 other countries.

In a statement, the bookmaker said: “We anticipate that longer term retail footfall will not return to pre-COVID levels and 119 UK shops will remain closed following early lease breaks, with the majority of colleagues redeployed within the estate.”

Fewer than 20 people will not be redeployed.

The company said trading had been strong before the pandemic, but when the lockdown came in, it had controlled costs “effectively” and was recovering well.

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