William Hill: ‘No merit’ in engaging with suitors

British betting services giant William Hill has said it sees “no merit” in engaging with suitors Rank and 888 Holdings after rejecting a revised takeover bid from the pair.

Last week, William Hill turned down a £3.6bn (€4.2bn) takeover offer from the online gaming, bingo and casino consortium and, yesterday, was quick to refuse revised terms. 

While the updated bid still values a deal at £3.6bn – or 199p per share – existing William Hill shareholders would now end up owning 48.8% of the enlarged entity, should the transaction succeed, rather than the 44.6% previously envisaged, on account of 0.86 shares per William Hill share now also being offered rather than 0.725 previously.

However, in a statement, William Hill said: “Having reviewed the revised proposal with its financial advisers, Citi and Barclays, the board of William Hill has unanimously rejected the revised proposal as it continues to substantially undervalue William Hill and, as such, the board continues to see no merit in engaging with the consortium.”

The betting giant’s chairman Gareth Davis said: “As we have said before, this is highly opportunistic and complex and does not enhance the strategic positioning of William Hill.”

“The board continues to believe we have a strong team to deliver superior value to our shareholders and trading at the start of the second half gives us renewed confidence in our standalone strategy,” he added.

Earlier this month, William Hill — which is set to lose its market leadership position in the UK once Ladbrokes concludes its merger with Coral — reported a 16% annualised decline in first-half operating profit to £131m, but a 1% rise in interim revenues to £814m. 

Desperate to grow internationally and enhance its digital offering, the company also recently sacked chief executive James Henderson — after only two years in the job — after the board lost patience with the slow pace of growth under his leadership.

The bid deadline for William Hill remains the end of this week (August 21) but analysts yesterday noted that in order to change its view, Rank/888 would have to further increase its proposed offer. William Hill shares were down over 4% at around £3.20 yesterday.


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