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Bidding War for William Hill’s Non-US Gambling Business in Final Stage

The bidding war for William Hill’s UK and European operations this week entered the final stretch as the frontrunners were invited to submit their best and final bids for the legacy bookmaker.

When the company, which was founded back in 1934, was put up for sale earlier this year, analysts predicted that its new owner could fetch between £1.2 billion and £1.5 billion. The Times reported on Wednesday that the latest industry rumors suggested the final bids could be as high as £2 billion.

In April, US casino powerhouse Caesars Entertainment, Inc. acquired William Hill in a £2.9 billion deal. The British gambling firm and its new owner had previously formed a US-focused sports betting partnership to capitalize on the rapid growth of the local wagering market.

Caesars made it clear that it was only interested in William Hill’s US operations and that it would seek to offload its UK and international assets as soon as it closed the multi-billion pound acquisition of the British operator.

The sale is being overseen by Deutsche Bank. It includes William Hill’s 1,400 betting shops across the UK and its online operations in the UK and several regulated European markets.

Three Bidders Vie for Hills’ Non-US Assets

Following the recent withdrawal of Advent International, the race for William Hill’s non-US business is believed to be down to three interested bidders, Apollo Global Management, CVC-backed Tipico, and 888 Holdings.

According to some analysts, Apollo is the frontrunner in the bidding war as it tried to purchase William Hill last summer, but Caesars entered the fray and was eventually picked as the preferred buyer.

Tipico, which is majority owned by CVC, is one of Germany’s largest gambling operators. News about the company’s interest in William Hill first emerged in July. It should be noted that CVC once owned the British bookmaker.

The private equity firm in partnership with Cinven bought William Hill in 1999 for £825 million. They offloaded their stakes in the gambling company four years later after successfully floating it in London. CVC purchased a majority stake in Tipico in early 2016.

As for 888 Holdings, being an online gambling firm, it is expected to only retain William Hill’s digital operations, if it gets to buy the company. Analysts suggest that in that scenario, Betfred, another major British bookmaker with strong retail presence in the UK market, could emerge as a buyer for Hills’ betting shop estate.

None of the parties involved in the ongoing bidding war have commented on the matter. It is also still unknown when Caesars will announce the winning bidder.

Source: Final furlong in race for William Hill, The Times, September 1, 2021

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