888 secures regulatory clearances to move ahead with William Hill takeover

888 Holdings has confirmed that it has moved closer to completing its full acquisition of William Hill’s international non-US assets, predicting closure of the acquisition in Q1 2022.

In an update this morning, the FTSE250 gambling group confirmed that it has secured mandatory antitrust and pre-completion gaming regulatory clearances, paving the way for finalisation of the takeover.

Confirmed on 9 September, 888 Holdings saw off stiff competition with a £2.2 billion bid for former fellow FTSE250 betting company William Hill from its new owner, Caesars Entertainment, which had confirmed its plans to sell off all of William HIll’s non-US divisions upon completing its own acquisition earlier this year.

Upon securing regulatory clearances, 888 further updated investors that it has been ‘progressing well’ on integration planning in order to complete the takeover in the first quarter of the new year.

This planning has seen the appointment of new SVP Director of Integration, Guy Cohen – former 888 SVP Head of B2C – who has been cooperating with a senior William Hill team to ‘advance integration preparations’, reporting to 888 Holdings CEO Itai Pazner.

“This transaction will create one of the world’s leading online betting and gaming groups with superior scale, leading technology, increased diversification, and a platform for strong growth, supported by a portfolio of iconic brands,” Pazner remarked.

“The appointment of Guy Cohen to the critical role of SVP, Director of Integration also strengthens our leadership and commitment to this important process, as we look to leverage the significant expertise and talent from both businesses to benefit the combined group.”

However, full finalisation of the merger is still dependent upon the some financial caveats, namely the approval of the re-admission of 888’s ordinary shares to the premium listing segment of the official list by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Furthermore, the London Stock Exchange must also approve the re-admission to trading on the main market for listed securities and the completion of a re-organisation of the William HIll group, as the legacy bookmaker must separate its US and non-US businesses, now owned by two separate gambling conglomerates.

Lastly, 888 still requires the full consent of its shareholders by ordinary resolution, which the company hopes to secure at its next General Meeting, having set out an ambition to publish a prospectus relating to the Acquisition and Capital Raise in early 2022.

This capital raise in question was an ambition previously set out by 888 with the goal of generating £500 million of gross proceeds by issuing new equity, and is expected to be finished prior to the completion of the William Hill takeover.

Pazner concluded: “I’m delighted that we have now checked off a number of important milestones towards completion of the Acquisition. Given the strong progress we have made, we now expect the transaction to complete in the first quarter of 2022 and are excited about the opportunities ahead of us as we combine two powerful and complementary businesses.”

Although 888 has now taken another step to significantly bolstering its UK and international presence by acquiring William Hill, it is unknown whether the company will continue to retain control over its new subsidiary’s extensive suite of retail outlets. 

According to Regulus Holdings, 40% of 888’s revenue is now generated from retail holdings and 70% is from the UK market, but Pazner’s stated ambition to create “one of the world’s leading online betting and gaming groups” could suggest a retail sell-off.

888’s bidding competitor in the William Hill auction, Apollo Global Management – which also bid against Caesars in the initial acquisition – is reportedly still eyeing up some available assets, whilst Betfred owner Fred Done and BoyleSports have also been cited as interested in further strengthening their current retail operations.

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