Caesars initiates bidding contest for William Hill’s UK and European assets

Caesars Entertainment has announced that it will begin the bidding contest for the European and UK home assets of WIlliam Hill, formally completing its takeover of the heritage bookmaker last month. 

Reported in The Telegraph, the sale will include all of William Hill’s high street shops – which number around 1,400 in the UK and Ireland – as well as its British and European online divisions, which could generate around $1.5 billion for Caesars according to some analysts.

Stating its intentions to dominate US wagering, a refinanced Caesars had previously stated its intention to sell all of William Hill’s non-US assets, having finalised its £2.9 billion, £2.72 per share acquisition of the former FTSE 250 and LSE registered British operator on 23 April.

US private equity fund, Apollo Global Management is reportedly one of the two primary contenders for the bid, having previously competed against Caesar’s for the initial acquisition of the entirety of William Hill. 

If successful in its takeover of the remaining William Hill assets in the UK and Europe, it ‘would be expected’ that Apollo would combine the British bookmaker with its Italian subsidiary Gamenet, with a strong focus on leveraging the company’s sports betting operations.

Standing in opposition to Apollo is the Israeli Shaked business family, the founding shareholders behind online sports betting and casino operator 888 Holdings. 

Itai Pazner, CEO of 888 Holdings, had previously stated: “We have mentioned William Hill in the past, that could be something that we would be looking at. And I won’t change my comment on that.”

888’s interest comes as the firm continues to enjoy significant success, driven largely by online operations in regulated markets during the pandemic, recording a 56% revenue increase to $272.5 million in Q1 2021.

Other potential contenders could include Fred Done, owner of British retail giant Betfred, who is reportedly primarily interested in integrating William Hill’s extensive network of betting shops into his own business. If successful this would account for 44pc of the UK’s offline, retail betting market.

Additionally, Swedish operator Kindred is also reportedly interested in incorporating the remaining William Hill divisions – such as popular online casino Mr Green – into its portfolio, which already includes 32Red.

However, The Telegraph reported that Apollo is allegedly in the dominant position in the bidding contest, having been granted access to William Hill’s books during the takeover contest with Caesars.

The high-profile pursuit of William Hill’s offcuts, takes place against the backdrop of the UK government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act – a dynamic which will likely impact the valuation of William Hill assets, dependent on the final outcome of proceedings.  

Deal makers expect the bidding to conclude by the summer, but any final acquisition deals could not be finalised until the end of the year trading.

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