Online gambling firm 888 soars on deal to pay less for William Hill assets

Shares in London-listed online gambling firm 888 soared nearly 30 per cent on news that it will pay less due to a new financing structure to acquire the international assets of William Hill.

The equity-raise is understood to be being undertaken through an accelerated bookbuild, meaning that it can be implemented more quickly than a more conventional rights issue would allow, SkyNews reports on Thursday, April 7.

However, 888’s shares have fallen sharply since the £2.2bn takeover of William Hill International – which includes its high street betting shops in the UK – was announced last September.

That means the company will have to issue substantially more shares to raise the same sum than it would have done seven months ago.

At Wednesday’s closing share price of 192p, 888 had a market capitalisation of £777m.

The company previously said it would raise approximately £500m by issuing new shares.

The purchase, 888’s largest since listing in London nearly two decades ago, will give the online pure-play company access to William Hill’s 2 million active UK customers and 1,408 betting shops across the UK, Reuters reports.

William Hill is subject to an ongoing licence review by the UK’s gambling commission and is addressing action points raised by the regulator in relation to its “social responsibility and anti-money laundering obligations”, 888 said in a statement.

888, which has online sports betting, poker and casino platforms, said it now plans to issue up to 70.8 million new shares, which represents about 136 million pounds as of Wednesday’s close, versus prior plans to raise about £500 million.

The acquisition is expected to be completed by June 2022.

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Fergal MacErlean

Originally from Dublin, Fergal is based on the eastern Costa del Sol and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]