888 pays £2.2bn for William Hill’s non-US assets including UK betting shops

William Hill’s American owner has revealed that online gambling operator 888 has agreed to pay £2.2bn to buy the brand’s non-US business, including its 1,400+ UK betting shops.

Caesars Entertainment, which bought William Hill last year for £2.9bn. had placed the international business up for auction and 888 had revealed “advanced discussions” on Tuesday after it was reported to have won the day.

888 Holdings said the acquisition would create a “global online betting and gaming leader” and deliver enhanced sports betting opportunities.

“The combination of 888 and WHI (William Hill International) is expected to deliver significant operating efficiencies, including pre-tax cost synergies of at least £100m per year, leading to improved profit margins,” its statement said.

It was yet to confirm whether any jobs would be placed at risk under that forecast though it did welcome “opportunities” granted by the acquisition of the betting shops operation despite headwinds from COVID disruption and past regulatory action against fixed-odds betting terminals.

William Hill employs 12,000 people across its international business, including 8,000 of them in the UK.

888 added that it would raise about £500m by issuing new equity via a capital raise to help bolster its finance structure after the deal which, it said, was dependent on several hurdles including investor and regulatory clearances.

Caesars had bought William Hill outright as the United States betting market opens up following the lifting of historic curbs on sports betting operations.

Tom Reeg, Caesar’s chief executive, said: “We have found an owner for the William Hill business outside the US which shares the same objectives, approaches and longer-term ambitions of that business”.

His counterpart at 888, Itai Pazner, added: “This transaction will create one of the world’s leading online betting and gaming groups with superior scale, exceptional brands, increased diversification, and a platform for strong growth.

“William Hill is an iconic sports brand, making it the ideal complement to 888, one of the leading global online gaming brands.

“Our strategies are also complementary, being digitally led, customer focused, and committed to player protection and raising industry standards around safer gambling.

“We are also excited about the opportunities that the Retail (betting shop) business provides and see significant brand benefits to the enlarged group from its large estate.”

Shares were 2% down on the news – perhaps reflecting the price paid as it had been expected the auction could realise proceeds above £1.5bn for Caesars.

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