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888 Anticipating Delay in William Hill Takeover

Roulette Wheel Frozen in Ice CubeWhile it’s still full steam ahead in 888’s takeover of William Hill’s UK and European facing business, there could be something of a delay in the completion of the process.

The outfit has confirmed that they expect the acquisition, which was signed, sealed and delivered for around £2.2 billion, to be completed at some point in the second quarter of 2022, with customers of William Hill’s casino brands unlikely to see any change to their services until the spring at the earliest.

It is not thought that there are major snags in the process, with the delay thought to be partly due to 888’s planned capital raise programme, which would see them attempt to generate more than £500 million in equity to complete the deal. That would need to run its course before the takeover is completed, while a shareholder vote will also be held.

With all of the necessary due diligence in place, including antitrust approval and regulatory clearance, it was expected that the deal would be completed in the first three months of the year – allowing 888 to re-brand William Hill’s betting shops and online platforms.

There may be further changes on the horizon, however. 888’s representatives have not confirmed their intentions as to William Hill’s retail outlets, and it may yet be the case that a potential buyer – the Apollo Global management equity group and Betfred are some of the names in the frame – will be sourced to take over the running of the firm’s high street operations.

It will come months after US casino giant Caesars Entertainment completed the purchase of the William Hill brand, upon whom they will lean for their online and sports betting rollout in 2022 and beyond.

It’s been a time of hectic activity for 888 Holdings behind the scenes, and as they strengthen their sports betting and casino gaming divisions they have decided to cut loose their bingo operation – selling their proprietary Dragonfish brand to the Broadway Group for around £40 million late in 2021.

Slow and Steady Progress

Diary with Calculator Showing 2022

It was early in December that Itai Pazner, the CEO of 888, issued an update on the acquisition, reiterating his belief that the deal would be done early in 2022.

“I’m delighted that we have now checked off a number of important milestones towards completion of the acquisition,” he said.

“Given the strong progress we have made, we now expect the transaction to complete in the first quarter of 2022, and are excited about
the opportunities ahead of us as we combine two powerful and complementary businesses.”

His firm had already clocked up a number of key milestones along the way, with regulatory approval confirmed and a prospectus created ahead of the firm’s general meeting and shareholder vote.

Pazner appointed Guy Cohen as his director of integration, bringing together senior figures at both 888 and William Hill to ensure the takeover goes without a hitch. There was also a stated ambition of a ‘continued focus on execution in existing 888 business’ while the process is completed in the background.

But it has now been confirmed that there’s a delay in completion, and that players can continue to use their chosen William Hill platforms as normal for the next few months at least.