Posts Tagged ‘Hill’

William Hill, Paddy Power Betfair Competing to Acquire CrownBet

 William Hill, Paddy Power Betfair Competing to Acquire CrownBet

Gambling industry consolidation talks have started up again, this time with Australian bookmaker CrownBet as the acquisition target by both William Hill and Paddy Power Betfair. CrownBet is 62 percent owned by Crown Resorts – Crown Melbourne is the host venue of the popular Aussie Millions poker series – which is itself part of James Packer’s gambling empire.

The news of William Hill’s interest in CrownBet broke late last week and a William Hill spokesperson confirmed to financial media that there were “very preliminary discussions” going on between the two companies.

That spokesperson, though, cautioned against anyone getting too excited over a possible deal, saying, “This industry is undergoing consolidation and people in the sector talk to each other all the time. Don’t look too much into this as a firing gun.”

William Hill got into the Australian sports betting market several years ago, when it bought Sportingbet and TomWaterhouse.com. It has not done well in Australia, though. Canaccord Genuity analyst Simon Davies told The Telegraph that the move has been “fairly disastrous.”

Fortunately, Australia only comprises about six to seven percent of William Hill’s sports betting business.

Not long after the word got out about William Hill’s talks with Crown, Reuters reported that Ireland-based Paddy Power Betfair was also courting the Australian company. No further details have been forthcoming.

Both Paddy Power Betfair and William Hill have been involved in the gambling industry’s consolidation in recent years. Paddy Power and Betfair, once rivals, agreed to a merger in August 2015. Paddy Power owners controlled 52 percent of the company in the deal. It was one of the rare combinations in which the two companies had a strong understanding of the other before the merger took place, as Betfair CEO Breon Corcoran was once COO of Paddy Power.

Edward Wray, co-founder and Chairman of Betfair, told The Financial Times of Corcoran back then, “He knows both businesses inside out. Often when you do a merger, it is 25 per cent known and 75 per cent unknown. This is the other way around.”

William Hill has been very active in the M&A arena. In 2015, the company was thought to be one of the suitors for bwin.party and before that, it attempted to acquire 888 Holdings. William Hill was in talks to merge with Gala Coral, as well, in 2015, but nothing ever happened there. Gala Coral eventually joined up with Ladbrokes.

Last year, in a reversal, 888 Holdings attempted to acquire William Hill, teaming with The Rank Group to do so. William Hill rejected multiple bids by the duo, rankling 888 owner Eyal Shaked, who tweeted, “Pure ego made #WilliamHill reject #Rank and #888 £3.16bn bid and that will be their downfall.”

Also in 2016, William Hill and Amaya Gaming – now The Stars Group, parent company of PokerStars – were in talks about a “merger of equals.” Mads Eg Gensmann and Edoardo Mercadante, co-founders of Parvus Asset Management, William Hill’s largest shareholder, hated the deal, writing to the William Hill board, “We strongly encourage that the board and management stops wasting valuable time and shareholder resources pursuing this value-destroying deal.”

Eventually, talks were canceled. Stay tuned to find out if William Hill finally finds a merger partner.

The post William Hill, Paddy Power Betfair Competing to Acquire CrownBet appeared first on Poker News Daily.

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William Hill Closes Czech Player Accounts Following New Gambling Law

 William Hill Closes Czech Player Accounts Following New Gambling Law

Prominent online gambling site and sports book William Hill has withdrawn from the Czech Republic market as the result of new internet gambling laws that took effect at the turn of the New Year. In an e-mail to affiliates last week, William Hill indicated that it may ramp back up in the Czech Republic sometime in the future.

Here is the e-mail, as sent to William Hill affiliates:

We would like to inform you, that following recent regulatory developments in The Czech Republic, William Hill will cease to accept business from customers in The Czech Republic. This means, that none of William Hill’s products will be available in The Czech Republic, though players will be able to withdraw from their existing account balances. Furthermore, affiliates are required to remove all marketing materials from their websites (including banners, text links, etc.) that relate to Czech Republic bettors. We value your cooperation and contribution and though William Hill is obliged to cease to accept business from customers in The Czech Republic, for the time being, we are confident that we will have the opportunity to work together in the future. In the meantime, if you require any help or assistance on this matter, please don’t hesitate to contact your affiliate manager…

The “regulatory developments” likely have to do with the new gambling law, signed by Czech President Miloš Zeman in July 2016, which require operators based in the European Union to acquire Czech online gaming licenses in order to offer their services to Czech residents. As William Hill does not have one – there seem to be only eleven operators that do – it decided not to run afoul of the country’s new law. The letter quoted above seems to imply that the company feels confident that it will obtain a license at some point.

It is entirely possible, though, that William Hill and other major operators won’t seek licenses, though, as the tax structure implemented by the new gambling law is extremely punitive. Licensed internet gaming operators will now be taxed 35 percent of gross gaming revenues from any game that uses a random number generator. Naturally, this includes poker in addition to casino games like blackjack and roulette. Sports betting and lottery revenues are taxed at 23 percent. On top of that, the operators still have to pay a 19 percent corporate income tax rate.

Many, if not most, operators will find this taxation way too prohibitive to make it worth getting back into the country. The tax rate was no accident, either. Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, the man who originally introduced the new online gambling bill in 2014, is very anti-online gambling, but rather than try to ban it and leave players without protections and the government without the tax revenue, he decided to just tax the industry out the wazoo. His idea was that such a high tax rate will keep operators away and he will get his wish of no internet gambling, anyway.

Of course, it could backfire on him and just encourage residents of the country to frequent unregulated sites, increasing their risk and keeping money out of the government’s coffers, anyway.

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William Hill, Amaya End Merger Discussions

 William Hill, Amaya End Merger Discussions

Less than two weeks ago, William Hill and Amaya Gaming confirmed rumors that they were discussing a potential merger. A so-called “merger of equals” would have actually been classified as a reverse takeover, as the smaller company, William Hill, would technically acquire the larger, Amaya. On Tuesday, both companies announced that the talks have ended and no deal will be made.

The writing appeared to be on the wall Thursday night when Parvus Asset Management, William Hill’s largest shareholder, controlling 14.3 percent of the company, sent an open letter to William Hill’s board panning the proposal. William Hill chairman Gareth Davis and interim chief executive Philip Bowcock met with Parvus co-founders Mads Eg Gensmann and Edoardo Mercadante a couple days earlier, but when Davis and Bowcock did not buy the Parvus duo’s reasoning for their dislike of the deal, Eg Gensmann and Mercadante took their concerns straight to the Board.

“We strongly encourage that the board and management stops wasting valuable time and shareholder resources pursuing this value-destroying deal,” they wrote.

“Instead the board and management must focus on maximising value for William Hill owners, rather than Amaya shareholders, by considering all alternative options available, including a sale of William Hill.”

Eg Gensmann elaborated to Reuters, saying that two major concerns were exchange rates that favored Amaya and that William Hill’s cash flow situation was better than Amaya’s. He felt that William Hill strengthening its poker business was not nearly as significant as Amaya strengthening its sports betting business.

“Effectively, you’re buying an overvalued asset using an undervalued currency,” he said.

Former William Hill CEO Ralph Topping backed Parvus, telling the Financial Times, “I fully support what Parvus are doing, because they are good people. When this deal was announced I was left scratching my head. Both [Amaya and William Hill] have a lot to sort out in their own business. I’m very anxious on the future of William Hill.”

In a press release, William Hill did mention the discussions with Parvus Asset Management:

At the time of the announcement on 10 October 2016, various exploratory due diligence and other workstreams were underway but far from complete. After canvassing views from a number of William Hill’s major shareholders, the Board has decided that it will not pursue discussions with Amaya. Accordingly, the Board has informed Amaya that it is withdrawing from discussions and wishes Amaya well for the future.

The Group has continued to focus on the four priorities set out by Interim CEO Philip Bowcock – online, technology, efficiencies and international – to deliver value for shareholders and will also continue to consider strategic alternatives where they have the potential to create shareholder value.

While it sounds like it was William Hill that nixed the deal, Amaya Chairman Divyesh (Dave) Gadhia provided the usual generic spin, saying in a press release, “Amaya is a strong and growing company with experienced management and a proven strategy to deliver profitable growth and shareholder value. Together with our financial advisors, we evaluated a wide range of strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value and have concluded that remaining an independent company is in the best interest of Amaya’s shareholders at this time. The Board has full faith in Amaya’s management to execute on its strategy and objectives.”

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Amaya Gaming, William Hill Admit to Merger Discussions

 Amaya Gaming, William Hill Admit to Merger Discussions

Ending speculation of what would be a monumental shift in the online gaming and poker industry, this afternoon Amaya Gaming, the parent company for PokerStars, and the powerful online and live betting shop William Hill admitted that they are currently in discussion regarding a merger of the companies.

In a joint announcement meant to potentially squelch any potential rumor-mongering, the two companies said, “The Boards of William Hill and Amaya Inc. (have noted) the recent press speculation and confirm that they are in discussions regarding a potential all share merger of equals. The potential merger would be classified as a reverse takeover under the Listing Rules of the Financial Conduct Authority and is not subject to the City Code on Takeovers and Mergers.” In essence, this states that the smaller company – William Hill – would be the one taking over the larger company – Amaya Gaming.

“Amaya has been undertaking a review of its strategic alternatives since February 2016,” the statement continued. “Over recent months, the Board of William Hill has been evaluating options to accelerate William Hill’s strategy of increasing diversification by growing its digital and international business.” The statement does close with a bit of an attempt at staunching the speculation of a deal being imminent, saying, “These discussions are ongoing and there can be no certainty that an agreement will be reached.”

If there isn’t a deal in the works, then the two companies have put together some powerful financial organizations (which would facilitate the move) all for naught. Backing up William Hill are such financial companies as Citigroup Global Markets, Ltd. and the Macquarie Capital entities in both the United States and Europe. In Amaya Gaming’s corner is Barclays Bank, who is handling their end of the negotiations.

If the deal were to reach fruition, it would mark another seismic shift in the online gaming and poker worlds in general and also have an effect on the internet bookmaking operations outside of the United States. Amaya Gaming, as the owner of PokerStars, has aggressively moved into the U. S. through the New Jersey online gaming industry and has also been at the fore of trying to earn passage of regulation in the state of California. William Hill, which has been in the bookmaking business since 1934 and opened up its first online book in 1998, has constantly tried to find other outlets to go with its bookmaking operations. The resulting combination would bring a definitive answer to what is the largest online gaming operation in the industry.

It is a remarkable change from what occurred only a couple of years ago. In 2014, Amaya Gaming was but a minor player in the online gaming world but, with one humongous deal, changed the course of the company. Amaya negotiated the purchase of the Rational Group in June 2014, the group that owned the two largest online poker rooms in the world at that time (PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker). The $ 4.9 BILLION buyout was unheard of at the time and it would change the course of online poker definitively and online gaming also.

Since that purchase, Amaya Gaming has been attempting to maximize its profits from its purchase to appease its stockholders, but many on the poker community have accused it of giving up on customer service and amenities that its poker offerings once gave to its most valued players. The company also saw the mastermind behind the takeover of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker (Full Tilt Poker was disbanded this spring, with PokerStars taking in their players), David Baazov, lost his position as Chief Executive Officer of Amaya Gaming after being charged with insider trading regarding the deal between Amaya and the Rational Group.

At this time, no further information has been offered by either entity in the discussions. Poker News Daily will continue to monitor the situation.

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888, Rank Quitting the William Hill Chase

 888, Rank Quitting the William Hill Chase

As former President George W. Bush once so confidently said, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

Or something like that.

After two futile attempts to acquire top UK bookmaker William Hill, the pairing of 888 Holdings and The Rank Group has thrown in the towel, announcing on Thursday that they will not be making any further offers to buy the company.

In a press release, 888 Holdings CEO Itai Frieberger said, “We are disappointed that the board of William Hill did not share our vision of the combined businesses. We believe that there was compelling industrial logic for the combination of these highly complementary businesses, which in our view would have brought scale, diversification, and strong revenue and cost synergies, from which all shareholders would have benefitted.”

Rank CEO Henry Birch added, “We strongly believe that the transaction would have created significant value for all three sets of shareholders. We and 888 are grateful for the shareholder support we have received throughout this process.”

888 and Rank made their initial approach to William Hill on August 9th, proposing to form a new company, BidCo, which would then buy William Hill. William Hill shareholders were offered 199 pence per share plus .725 BidCo shares per William Hill share. Based on the prices of 888 and Rank as of August 5th, it was estimated that the total value of the offer was 364 pence per share, or £3.164 billion. William Hill shareholders would have owned 44.6 of the new company.

After William Hill’s Board of Directors declined that offer, 888 and Rank came back with a new one at a 394 pence per share estimated value, or £3.425 billion. Once again, it was for 199 pence per share, but rather than fooling with a new BidCo company, the stock portion was for .860 shares of 888 Holdings for each William Hill share. William Hill’s ownership portion of the combined company was also increased to 48.8 percent. That deal was also rejected.

Following the dismissal of the first proposal, 888 owner Eyal Shaked was salty, tweeting, “Pure ego made #WilliamHill reject #Rank and #888 £3.16bn bid and that will be their downfall.”

In their “Statement of intention not to make an offer,” 888 and Rank still seemed a bit perturbed at the developments:

The Proposed Transaction would have created a transformational force in the global betting and gaming industry and the UK’s largest multi-channel gambling operator by revenue and profit and was expected to have unlocked substantial cost and revenue synergies.

Notwithstanding 888 and Rank’s belief in the inherent value of their Proposals, it has not been possible to meaningfully engage with the board of William Hill. 888 and Rank respect the William Hill board’s position and, as such, after careful consideration each now confirms that they have withdrawn their interest and that they do not intend to make an offer for William Hill.

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