Business Irish

Saturday 21 January 2017

William Hill and online poker giant abandon merger plan

Kate Holton and Simon Jessop

Published 19/10/2016 | 02:30

William Hill struggles to find partner in a consolidating industry. Photo: Bloomberg
William Hill struggles to find partner in a consolidating industry. Photo: Bloomberg

William Hill and Canadian online gambling company Amaya have abandoned merger talks, leaving the British bookmaker struggling to find a partner in a fast-consolidating industry.

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Amaya operates the Full Tilt poker business that employs hundreds at a site in Cherrywood in Dublin as well as the PokerStars website.

William Hill, one of the best known British gambling brands, said earlier this month that it and Amazya were in talks about a merger of equals but the deal was thrown into doubt days later when a leading investor in William Hill said it would oppose the plan.

The Canadian company said it had decided it could best deliver shareholder value by remaining an independent company, while William Hill said it had decided to walk away after canvassing its biggest investors.

William Hill investor Parvus Asset Management, which came out against the Amaya deal last week, welcomed the news.

"We're pleased that the board has decided to cancel the talks with Amaya, and, from our perspective, we're looking forward to working constructively with the board with regard to creating shareholder value for William Hill owners," Parvus co-founder Mads Gensmann said.

William Hill is looking increasingly isolated after European rivals Paddy Power and Betfair joined forces, while Ladbrokes agreed to unite with unlisted Gala Coral.

William Hill had 51 betting shops in the Republic before the financial crash but shut many and in 2011 sold the remaining 15 to BoyleSports.

Betting companies are facing tighter regulation and higher taxes in countries such as Britain and need to adapt to an environment in which younger and more tech-savvy gamblers are increasingly betting online or via smartphone. William Hill rejected a joint takeover approach from smaller online rival 888 and casinos and bingo halls operator Rank Group in August.

That turned the tables on William Hill which had made a £720m bid for 888 last year.

In its statement yesterday, William Hill said it was focusing on the priorities set out by interim chief executive Philip Bowcock - online, technology, efficiencies and international.

It said the company would "continue to consider strategic alternatives where they have the potential to create shareholder value."

(Reuters)

Irish Independent

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