William Hill and Amaya Talk Reverse Takeover

Will hill 2The UK’s William Hill and Canada’s Amaya are in discussions that could lead to a £4.6bn all share merger to create one of the world’s largest gambling companies, as the groups become swept up in the wave of consolidation hitting the betting industry.

On Saturday, the boards of the two companies confirmed they were in talks in response to press speculation, saying that a merger would create a clear international leader across online sports betting, poker and casino games.

The merger would be classified as a reverse takeover, with the smaller group William Hill taking over the larger company, Amaya. The companies said discussions were ongoing and there could be no certainty that an agreement would be reached.

Amaya runs Pokerstars, the world’s largest online poker business, while William Hill is one of the UK’s largest retail bookmakers and also has significant operations in Australia.

Amaya shares were suspended on Friday after surging 9 per cent on reports that it was talks about a merger, but the company’s is still down 23 per cent over the past 12 months. It has a market value of C$3.4bn.

Shares in William Hill are down 15 per cent over the past year, giving the company a market value of £2.5bn.

A deal would bring together two companies that have been in turmoil over the past year.

In August, David Baazov, the former chief executive and co-founder of Amaya resigned all his positions at the company. He had previously stepped away from the CEO position on a temporary basis to battle charges of insider trading that he is contesting, but had remained on the board. He has since been replaced by Rafi Ashkenazi.

The Canadian company has been undertaking a strategic review since February, when Amaya said it had received a proposal from Mr Baazov to take the company private, but no bid has been forthcoming.

William Hill remains without a permanent chief executive since James Henderson abruptly stood down in July amid growing concerns over its digital strategy. In August, William Hill rebuffed a £3bn takeover approach from a consortium of Rank Group and 888 Holdings that would have created Britain’s largest gaming group. This was despite William Hill previously making attempts to buy both companies in the past.

More at Financial Times

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