888 Holdings buys William Hill’s European assets.

888 Holdings has won the auction for obtaining William Hill’s European operations with a bid estimated at more than £2bn.

The Best Bid

The bidding was down to a three-horse race between 888, Apollo Global Management, and CVC Capital Partners. CVC was knocked out at the weekend and 888 has won out against Apollo, The Times reported.

Final bids were pitched at more than £1.7bn, outstripping peak expectations of a £1.5bn sale at the start of the process, The Times said.

888 has published a statement to say it was in advanced talks with Caesars to buy William Hill’s non-US business.

“There can be no certainty that these advanced discussions will result in a transaction. A further announcement will be made as and when appropriate,” 888 said.

The operator said the acquisition would create a “global online betting and gaming leader” and deliver enhanced sports betting opportunities.

“The combination of 888 and WHI (William Hill International) is expected to deliver significant operating efficiencies, including pre-tax cost synergies of at least £100m per year, leading to improved profit margins,” its statement said.

Keeping the Shops

Caesars Entertainment bought William Hill for £2.8bn but the US group only wanted the company’s US operations. The assets up for sale were William Hill’s 1400 betting shops and its UK and European online operations.

Chief executive Itai Pazner later signaled that no UK high street jobs would be placed at risk. He said that the betting shop operation was “profitable” following an earlier transformation of the estate, adding: “Our plans are absolutely to keep the shops”.

William Hill employs 12,000 people across its international business, including 8,000 of them in the UK.

Besides the UK, William Hill, founded in 1934, also has operations in Spain, Italy, and the Nordics.