New York ‘activist hedge fund’ HG Vora Capital has acquired a 5.1% stake in William Hill Plc for a reported £115 million, reigniting speculation over the FTSE250 betting group’s future options.
The investment fund, led by former Goldman Sachs VP Parag Vora, holds a successful track record in gambling having previously held a 5% shareholding in Caesars Entertainment, prior to the firm’s $17 billion acquisition by Eldorado Resorts (deal completed July 2020).
HG Vora secured its 5% stake in William Hill, as the UK heritage bookmaker seeks to aggressively expand its US footprint across all 20 regulated stakes, in which Caesars Entertainment serves as its lead wagering partner.
Outlining US growth as its core strategic objective, last June William Hill completed a £225 million private bookbuild in less than 24 hours, with the transaction personally backed by Chairman Roger Devlin and Group CEO Ulrik Bengtsson as a statement of intent to support the firm’s long-term strategy.
Markets have responded positively to William Hill’s US drive, which last week saw the firm’s share price close at a year-high of 220.00 GBX. Yet, caution has been noted with regards to William Hill’s potential sale to a larger US casino operator, as COVID-19 impacts have forced all US gambling groups to refinance their operations securing their land-based portfolios.
This September, William Hill was forced to quell rumours that it was gearing to spin-off its ‘William Hill US’ wagering division to Caesars Entertainment, who own 20% of the subsidiary formed as part of a strategic joint-venture partnership.
William Hill is no stranger to activist movements, as the betting group was subject to a year-long battle with former investor Parvus Asset Management, who in 2017 demanded that corporate governance deliver shareholder value by prioritising a company sale.