William Hill will keep its bets on merger talks with Amaya despite opposition from activist shareholder Parvus

Francesca Washtell
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William Hill will go full steam ahead with merger talks (Source: Getty)

William Hill will plough ahead with talks to merge with Canadian online betting group Amaya, despite facing opposition from its largest shareholder.

Last week Parvus Asset Management, which owns a 14.3 per cent stake in the FTSE 250-listed bookie, slammed plans for a £5.5bn to £6bn reverse takeover that it said "makes little strategic sense".

Parvus said the online poker focus of Amaya's core business is the "least attractive segment within online gambling" and is a "mature, if not structurally declining" revenue stream.

On Friday, former William Hill chief exec Ralph Topping also hit out at the merger plans.

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However, the bookmaker will continue with tie-up discussions as no other investors have joined Parvus' call for them to be scrapped, a source close to the talks told City A.M.

William Hill confirmed it was in talks for an all-share merger with the PokerStars website operator earlier this month. It said a combination of the two groups would "create a clear international leader across online sports betting, poker and casino".

Dialogue with Amaya pre-dates the attempt made earlier this summer by Rank Group and 888 Holdings to launch a complicated three-way tie-up with the firm, which its board summarily rejected.

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Although 888 and Rank increased their original £3.6bn offer, the bookmaker said the deal still significantly undervalued the group.

Although William Hill is one of the most recognisable high street betting brands, it has struggled to plug losses in its online operations. In March, it issued a warning of a £25m fall in online profits this year.

William Hill declined to comment.

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