Ballad of William Hill, Part 2
For Thanksgiving or Christmas, like a rich and fattened festive bird, betting rivals are sharpening knives and appetites at the mouthwatering prospect of consuming William Hill with all its trimmings.
Lessons have been learned fast by the gaming community and a punt on William Hill looks tastier than ever, given the betting giant’s strength in sports betting and all things online.
Online is hot right now and, since the drag of coronavirus lock downs on land-based assets, is leading the financial fight back everywhere.
In adding another verse to the Ballad of William Hill, we can report that British billionaire bookmaker Fred Done, the man behind BetFred, has now stepped into the fray. And, it is reported, is “seriously considering” making a bid for the FTSE 250 gambling giant by exploring “all options”.
Hitherto, Caesars Entertainment–leveraging its 20 per cent holding in William Hill’s American vehicle, William Hill US–was in pole position, having offered 272p-a-share, which values the company at £2.86b (US$3.7b/€3.16).
Caesars has already managed to head off a much lower rival bid from Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm.
Done, aged 77, is William Hill’s second biggest investor and he has previously expressed a strong interest in the firm’s 1,400 high street betting shops. But his calculation must have taken on a new dimension since COVID-19.
It is William Hills’ US operations, and its online expertise, that are the real jewels in the crown.
The rest of the company runs the risk, whatever the protestations, of being auctioned off; like so many cuts of a festive bird.
Caesars, for example, has confirmed that, with shareholders consent, it would sell apart William Hill’s UK and European operations if its bid were accepted.
With William Hill shares trading at 278p on opening, there’s a strong indication that The City believes the race is not yet run — and that there’s at least another verse to be written in the ballad of William Hill.
Next stop “bumpitrage” and the art of eliciting ever-higher offers.