Gambling giant 888 shares surge 17% as cost of buying rival William Hill International is slashed by up to £250m
- Caesars originally agreed to sell the business to 888 Holdings for £2.2bn
- 888 Holdings also said it plans to issue up to 71m shares to fund the takeover
- The purchase covers William Hill’s 1,400 UK stores and betting brand Mr Green
Shares in 888 Holdings soared today after Caesars Entertainment agreed to sell William Hill’s non-US assets to the firm for up to £250million less than previously agreed.
888 Holdings shares shot up 16.8 per cent to £2.31 on Thursday, making the group the top riser on the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE 350 Index.
When the online betting brand originally struck a deal to purchase William Hill’s international business from the American hotel and casino giant in September last year, it landed on a price tag of £2.2billion.
Acquisition: When 888 Holdings originally struck a deal to purchase William Hill’s international business from Caesars Entertainment last year, it agreed a price tag of £2.2billion
But now, the offer price has been cut to between £1.95billion and £2.05billion, which 888 Holdings said reflected the changing economic and regulatory conditions conditions affecting William Hill.
This includes a current licence review being undertaken by the UK Gambling Commission, alongside an analysis of betting laws by the UK Government that could lead to much tougher regulations being imposed on the British betting industry.
And rather than partially financing the takeover through a capital raise, the Gibraltar-based firm stated it would instead issue upwards of 71 million shares, equivalent to 19 per cent of its share capital, via an accelerated bookbuild.
Further funding is coming from a revolving credit facility of £150million, while about £2.1billion of debt financing has been guaranteed by major banks, including Barclays, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley.
Under the terms of the new arrangement, the cash amount that Caesars will immediately receive has been cut by £250million to £584million.
It could then gain a future payment of £100million in 2024 should the underlying earnings of the newly-enlarged 888 Holdings hit £428million in 2023.
Terms: When the deal is finalised, all 1,400 William Hill shops in the UK, as well as online gaming brands Mr Green and Redbet, will come under the control of 888 Holdings
Approval is required from shareholders for the revised deal to go ahead, but 888 Holdings said its largest investor had given it the thumbs up.
The company believes the buyout of William Hill International would help diversify its geographical and product offering, enhance its presence across key markets and enable it to take advantage of the booming sports betting industry.
When the acquisition is finalised, it will take charge of all 1,400 William Hill shops in the UK, as well as online gaming brands Mr Green and Redbet, and increase its employee headcount by over 10,000.
Bosses at the firm said: ‘The current macro-economic environment and changing market conditions across its key markets only serving to strengthen the rationale for bringing together two highly complementary businesses and combining two of the industry’s leading brands.’
888 Holdings further revealed today that it expects first-quarter revenue to rise modestly from the previous quarter to $222-226million, which would be an increase of at least a third from the equivalent period two years ago.
But this figure would represent a decrease of around $50million on last year when Covid-19 lockdown restrictions prevented punters from visiting betting stores and encouraged more of them to place bets online.
The gambling group added that the decline reflected the temporary closure of its services in the Netherlands, where a new online gambling license regime has come into force, and the impact of regulatory and compliance factors.
It could face additional regulations in the UK, where proposals to reform the Gambling Act are set to be outlined later this year following years of concerns regarding the harmful effects of betting addiction.