Major merger off after William Hill refuses to play ball with 888 and Rank

Henry Birch
Henry Birch

888 Holdings Plc and The Rank Group Plc are withdrawing their proposal for a three way merger with William Hill, citing an inability to ‘meaningfully engage’ with the bookmaker’s board on the issue.

888 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.”

Rank and 888 argues that the 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.

William Hill, who had previously tried to buy 888, was not impressed with the original or the follow-up approach that upped the bid from 364 pence to 394 pence.

A statement from the two firms said: “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respect the William Hill board’s position and, as such, after careful consideration each now confirms that they have withdrawn their interest and that they do not intend to make an offer for William Hill.

“Rank and 888 remain committed to enhancing returns to their shareholders through their respective focused strategic plans.”

Despite their enthusiasm to work together to land William Hill, it is doubtful that 888 and Rank will pursue a smaller merger with each other as the two firms saw the bookmaker as the catalyst to make the combination work.


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