(Almost) Over the Hill – 888 Remains Perfect Number for WHI

For anyone doubting the wisdom of 888 Holdings getting into bricks and mortar in the “Age of Covid”, the iGaming giants this week doubled down on their intention to buy up William Hill International (WHI) and their 1,400 high street betting shops.

It’s full-steam ahead for the proposed £2.2 billion (US$2.9bn/€2.6bn), debt-laden, acquisition, 888’s CEO Itai Pazner has confirmed.

“[We] are excited about the opportunities ahead of us as we combine two powerful and complementary businesses,” said the Israeli tech entrepreneur, who founded the multiple award-winning Gibraltar-based company in 1997.

“This transaction will create one of the world’s leading online betting and gaming groups with superior scale, leading technology, increased diversification, and a platform for strong growth, supported by a portfolio of iconic brands.”

888 Holdings announced its bid for William Hill International on September 9.

The company has taken on £2.1 billion of debt (US$2.8bn/€2.5bn) to fund the acquisition from US Caesars Entertainment who bought the 87-year-old William Hill group last year for £2.9 billion (US$3.9bn/€3.4bn).

At the time of the 2020 purchase, Caesars signalled that it would sell off William Hill’s non-US verticals soonest.

With the recently cut loose, now booming, US online sports betting market in mind, retail-heavy Caesars was playing catch-up and principally focussed on acquiring WH’s cutting-edge iGaming expertise and proprietary software platforms.

888 have confirmed that all mandatory antitrust and gaming regulatory clearances for their acquisition of WHI have now been received.

The company plans to raise some £500 million in new equity (US$666m/€588m) to ease the debt burden of acquisition — and completion, subject to a shareholder vote at an AGM, is expected early next year.

Meantime, 888 has appointed Guy Cohen, formerly head of its B2C division, as SVP Director of Integration to work with WHI counterparts to smooth the pathway to acquisition.

“The appointment of Guy [to this] critical role strengthens our leadership and commitment to this important process, as we look to leverage the significant expertise and talent from both businesses to benefit the combined group,” 888 said in a statement.

And if, perchance, the 888-WHI nuptials are not consummated William Hill’s high street rivals Betfred will be there, waiting with open arms.

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