Business

William Hill in gambling takeover spat with Rank and 888

Cheltenham Festival racing Image copyright Getty Images

Bookmaker William Hill has again firmly rebuffed 888 Holdings and Rank Group, after the latter reiterated the case for their unsolicited £3.16bn offer.

After Rank and 888's offer was rejected on Tuesday, the duo re-stated their offer for William Hill the next day.

They said their proposal was "a compelling value creation opportunity for William Hill and its shareholders".

But William Hill says there is no merit in engaging on the basis of a proposal that "substantially undervalues" it.

Gareth Davis, chairman of William Hill, added: "In addition, as we have said before, this proposal is highly opportunistic, complex and poses significant risk for our shareholders."

'Highly complicated'

Casino and bingo hall operator Rank and online gambling group 888 had said on Wednesday that the proposed new combination would create the UK's largest multi-channel gambling operator by revenue and profit.

They also said it would result in cost savings of £100m a year.

Any deal would create the UK's third-largest online betting group with revenues of £2.7bn.

But in its latest rebuff, William Hill said the proposal involved "a highly complicated three-way combination at a very low premium".

In addition, it said there was "substantial risk for William Hill shareholders in the achievement of the estimated future cost synergies, which are only expected to be achieved in full by the end of 2020".

And it said it would leave the combined group operating with "substantially increased leverage of approximately £2.2bn, carrying a much higher interest charge".

Industry mergers

On Thursday William Hill shares were up 2.3% at 332 pence. Shares in Rank were up 0.1% at 207.90 pence, and shares in 888 were down 2.07% at 212.50 pence.

The offer would mean 888 taking over Rank, with the newly formed company then buying William Hill.

The offer of 364p a share to William Hill shareholders is made up of 199p in cash and 0.725% per share in the new company, BidCo.

Rank and 888 argue that its business plan would increase the new company's value to up to 408p a share - or £3.6bn.

Other mergers in the industry have include Ladbrokes and Coral signing a £2.3bn merger in July and Paddy Power and Betfair joining forces in September.

Earlier this month William Hill reported a 1% rise in revenues in the first half of the year, saying that strong demand during the Euros football tournament had offset poor online sales and what it called "the worst Cheltenham results in recent history".

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