888 Holdings Expects Delay in Completion of William Hill Acquisition

Posted on: January 3, 2022, 08:55h. 

Last updated on: January 3, 2022, 09:10h.

888 Holdings expected to complete its acquisition of William Hill’s non-US assets during the first quarter of the year. Those plans have now changed, with a second-quarter completion more likely.

William Hill Shop
One of the many William Hill shops at the center of 888 Holdings’ acquisition of the company. The deal was expected to be finalized during the first quarter, but has been delayed. (Image: The Times)

888 finalized its agreement to purchase William Hill’s non-US assets from Caesars Entertainment last September. It then began the lengthy process of securing all of the requisite confirmations, approvals, and the rest of the red tape that’s associated with US$3-billion deals.

At the time, it expected to be able to complete the process early this year. That seemed to be more possible after 888 received antitrust and pre-completion approval from regulators in November.

Now, things have slowed down a little. An update from the company as 2021 was wrapping up indicated that the second quarter of 2022 is the new target.

A reason for the delay hasn’t been provided. 888 is in the process of putting together a circular and prospectus that will outline the finalization of the acquisition, as well as details on a plan to raise capital to help cover the costs. It’s conceivable that the development of those documents is going to take longer than previously expected.

888 May Control a Slimmed-Down William Hill

William Hill announced in November that it was shuttering three online casino brands. There is also talk – although unconfirmed – about the possibility of some of its retail betting shops being sold.

Apollo Global Management, businessman Fred Done, and BoyleSports have previously expressed interest in purchasing them if this were to happen. 888, since its beginnings, has primarily been an online betting operator. It may not want to deal with the 1,414 betting shops operating under the William Hill name in the UK. However, 888 CEO Itai Pazner has also hinted that the land-based assets might be a smart segment to hold.

It’s possible that the sale of the land-based shops is playing a role in the delay of the acquisition. Perhaps negotiations are already underway, and the value of any such deal could play a part in the final prospectus prepared by 888.

In the middle of December, 888 announced that it was going to sell its B2C and B2B bingo operations to Saphalata Holdings. This, the company explained, would allow it to focus on its core activities. It would also see it pick up around US$50 million once the transaction is complete.

That all-cash deal could also play a role in how 888 proceeds with its fundraising exercise.

William Hill’s European assets performed well in 2020. Across its betting shops and its online operations in Spain, Italy, and the Nordic region, its total revenue was US$1.56 billion. Of that, approximately $1.08 billion came from digital ops.

That produced EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of US$211.34 million. 888, in the same period, had sales of US$814 million and EBITDA of US$156 million.

Purchasing the William Hill assets will almost double the size of 888’s operations. But a lot of moving parts make completing the transaction delicate.