William Hill to launch bolstered second half strategy after takeover offer from 888 Holdings and Rank Group

Francesca Washtell
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Melbourne Racing
William Hill sponsors races in Australia where it has a business arm (Source: Getty)

William Hill will give a strategic update for the second half of the year this week, which many will see as the bookmaker's plan to fend off a joint takeover bid from rivals 888 and Rank Group.

Last Monday, 888 and Rank confirmed they had launched a preliminary approach for the company.

In a frosty response, William Hill said the board would consider any proposal. However, it added it was not clear that a takeover “will enhance William Hill’s strategic positioning or deliver superior value to William Hill’s strategy”.

The bookmaker launched an unsuccessful £700m bid for the Gibraltar-based online operator 888 last year.

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Rank, the UK's biggest casino chain, and 888 now have until 5pm on 21 August to make a firm offer or walk away.

William Hill’s second-half plan is expected to include further strategies related to its struggling online business.

In a trading update in May, the company announced its online revenues had dropped 11 per cent in the first quarter, while its overall net revenues were down by three per cent.

In March, it warned of a £25m fall in online profits in 2016, driven by regulations and lower-than-expected gross margins.

Chief executive James Henderson stepped down on 21 July after the difficult start to the year, and has been replaced by the bookie’s chief financial officer Philip Bowock on an interim basis.

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William Hill is the last of the major bookmakers to have avoided merging in a wave of other consolidations in the industry.

These have included the £6bn merger between Paddy Power and Betfair, and the ongoing tie-up between Ladbrokes and Gala Coral.

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