Sunday 8 November 2020 12:44 pm

Private equity circles William Hill’s European arm

Buyout firms are once again circling William Hill, this time for its European operations following a deal with American firm Caesars Entertainment. 

In late September William Hill said it had given Caesars Entertainment the green light for a £2.9bn deal, which will be put to a shareholder vote on 19 November. 

Once shareholders have approved the takeover Caesars will auction off William Hill’s 1,400 betting shops and its operations outside America. 

CVC Partners and Apax Partners have both expressed an interest in William Hill’s European arm, according to the Sunday Telegraph. 

It follows reports that US giant Apollo Global Management has drawn up a bid for the bookmaker’s betting shops and other non-US assets after originally approaching the bookmaker about a full takeover. 

Las Vegas-based casino operator Caesars will reportedly include its own British business in the sell-off, according to a report by The Times last week. Caesars UK owns seven casinos in Britain, including the Playboy Club and Empire Casino.

Billionaire bookmaker Fred Done, who began building a stake in the firm two years ago, is also reportedly mulling a bid for parts of the business. 

William Hill has in recent weeks warned that the UK’s new coronavirus restrictions could hit profits. Despite an “encouraging” third quarter as footfall grew, it cautioned new restrictions would set it back.

“We estimate that, on average, the closure of 100 shops for four weeks would reduce EBITDA [an earnings measure] by circa £2m,” it said in a trading statement.

It follows a slew of deals in recent months which have seen buyout firms circling UK corporates amid the pandemic. Breadmaker Hovis is the most recent firm to be snapped up by private equity after a boost in sales during lockdown sparked a bidding war. 

Premier Foods, which sold a majority stake in Hovis to private equity firm Gores Group six years ago, said it had agreed a sale to Endless on Friday. 

CVC and Apax both declined to comment.

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