• M&A

888 in “advanced” talks with Caesars over acquisition of William Hill assets

By Robert Fletcher

Online betting and gaming operator 888 has confirmed it is in advanced talks with Caesars Entertainment over the acquisition of William Hill’s non-US assets.

Reports in the media today (7 September) suggested 888 had seen off competition from private equity giant’ Apollo Global Management and CVC Capital Partners to purchase the assets.

888 confirmed it is in advanced discussions with Caesars over a potential acquisition of the assets, but a deal is yet to be finalised.

The operator added that there is no certainty the talks will result in a transaction.

Caesars in April acquired William Hill in a deal worth £2.9bn (€3.37bn/$4.00bn), having stated that the primary target of the deal was William Hill’s US betting business and technology, with the remainder of the operator’s assets to be sold.

Incidentally, Caesars saw off a rival bid from Apollo Global, as well as a legal challenge from investment management fund HBK Investments, which had delayed the deal going from through on 1 April as initially planned.

Following completion, Caesars in May said it was to begin the process of selling off William Hill’s non-US assets over the summer, with the aim of finding a buyer and completing the sale within one year.

Though Caesars did not disclose the identity of any parties it was speaking with, reports said both Apollo Global Management and CVC Capital Partners were interested, but the latter is believed to have recently withdrawn from the process.

Speaking at the time, Caesars chief executive Tom Reeg said Caesars would launch the sale process before the end of Q2, on 30 June. He said the operator hoped to announce a buyer towards the end of the third quarter - or the start of Q4 - and close the deal by May 2022.

Reeg did not disclose an anticipated sale price for the assets, but chief financial officer Bret Yunker said Caesars planned to pay down $2bn of debt over the next 12 months, with the sale contributing to this. He added that the $2bn target assumed a conservative sale price for William Hill's non-US business.

“One of my pet peeves when I was an investor was companies that didn’t know what they were good at, and I can’t tell you we’re good at running a non-US digital business,” Reeg said.

“I can tell you that there are almost certainly people out there that will do it better than us and see opportunity there. And I can deploy that capital into businesses that I know will drive better returns to shareholders.

“We’ve not had a moment’s pause in terms of selling the non-US business.”

Last week, 888 reported a year-on-year increase in revenue and profit during the first half of its financial year, putting this down to continued growth within regulated markets around the world.

Revenue for the six months to 30 June amounted to $528.4m, up 39.4% from $379.1m last year, while profit for the period was 11.4% to $50.7m.

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