Apollo Global Management has backed out of a race to acquire William Hill, paving the way for Caesars Entertainment to complete the purchase. However, Apollo is still keen to acquire William Hill’s non-US businesses.
In September, US casino operator Caesars Entertainment agreed to purchase UK-based sportsbook William Hill for $3.7 billion. After Apollo’s announcement on Thursday, Caesars has no other competition for its mega bid. The British bookmaker’s board already unanimously recommended this offer to shareholders.
Caesars Had Made Sure A Complete Purchase, But…
Apollo never stood a real chance in the wake of Caesar’s bid, coupled with a threat to terminate its offer if William Hill accepted a bid from another party. Under this arrangement, William Hill will get exclusive access to all Caesars properties.
According to the UK’s City Code on Takeover and Mergers, the latest announcement prevents Apollo from taking part in the bidding process for at least six months. However, there are certain conditions that bypass this rule. The New York-based equity company can once again bid for the coveted William Hill’s acquisition, if Caesars Entertainment withdraws its bid or the bid falters, a third party communicates a firm intention to bid, or the British bookmaker announces a “whitewash proposal” or reverse takeover. The final exception is in case there is a material change in circumstances.
How Did We Reach Here?
In September, William Hill agreed to a $3.7 billion takeover by the Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The US gambling operator said the move was part of its plan to expand its online gambling and sports betting operation in the flourishing US market.
London-based William Hill already runs retail and online sportsbook in the US through a joint venture with Caesars. Currently, William Hill has sportsbooks open across 14 states at more than 160 locations.
After failing in its original plans to acquire William Hill completely, Apollo seeks consolation by purchasing some of it. Interestingly, Caesars is only interested in William Hill’s US business and does not want its 1400 retail sportsbooks across Europe. There are already keen buyers: Apollo is one of these. The UK Takeover Panel allowed Apollo to bid for William Hill’s non-US businesses, including UK betting shops. According to New York company, its former rival, Caesars, intends to sell those businesses after purchasing William Hill for its US businesses.
But Apollo Has Fresh Rivals!
William Hill has around 1400 retail sportsbooks in the UK, which have attracted many potential buyers besides Apollo. Some bidders have even estimated these assets at about $1.97 billion. Betfred and 888 Holdings are among the keen buyers. According to Sunday Telegraph, two rival private equity companies CVC Capital Partners (previous owner of Sky Betting & Gaming) and Apax Partners, may also join the race to acquire William Hill’s European assets.
Betfred founder Fred Done already has a 6% stake in the British sportsbook, which he bought amid a time when the pandemic had plunged the operator’s share price. While issuing an interim statement, 888 Holdings noted that it is currently assessing the developments with the company. The Gibraltar-based gambling company said it is particularly focusing on William Hill’s digital assets and its Scandinavian Mr. Green online casino brand.
William Hill Shareholders’ Next Meeting
Despite the September announcement of a successful purchase of William Hill, the mega-merger has yet to close. William Hill shareholders will formally vote on the bid on November 19. In addition to shareholders’ approval, the deal also requires approval from the competition and regulatory authorities in the relevant jurisdictions. After passing through these bottlenecks, the deal will be finalized, hopefully somewhere around the second half of 2021. Only after that the sale of non-US assets will become the next focus.