William Hill gets bid approaches from Apollo and Caesars

(Reuters) - William Hill WMH.L has received rival takeover proposals from buyout firm Apollo APO.N and U.S. casino operator Caesars Entertainment CZR.O, the British betting firm said on Friday, without disclosing the value of the offers.

FILE PHOTO: Gamblers place bets on sports at Monmouth Park Sports Book by William Hill, shortly after the opening of the first day of legal betting on sports in Oceanport, New Jersey, U.S., June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Shares in William Hill, which had a market value of 2.28 billion pounds ($2.90 billion) at Thursday’s close, soared 37% to 298.3 pence on news of the cash proposals.

The offers come as Britain’s betting shops are reeling from coronavirus-related restrictions on social movement and struggling with stricter regulations.

However, William Hill has offset the regulatory pressure at home by expanding in the United States, and has partnered with CBS Sports, Caesars and ESPN to cash in on a relaxation of sports betting rules there.

Its shares were already trading close to two-year highs before news of the takeover proposals, having fallen to their lowest in 20 years in March.

“Following an initial written proposal from Apollo on 27 August 2020, William Hill received a further proposal from Apollo and proposals from Caesars,” the company said, adding that talks were ongoing.

Apollo and Caesars have until Oct. 23 to either announce a firm intention to make an offer or walk away.

Gambling firms have seen customers switch to online casino and bingo games as people spend more time indoors, leading William Hill to announce the closure of 119 shops last month as it becomes more digital.

It has also been helped by the return of sporting events such as horse-racing, top tier soccer in England and Germany, as well as Major League Baseball in the United States.

Bloomberg earlier reported Apollo had approached William Hill about a potential deal. Apollo declined to comment on that report.

($1 = 0.7852 pounds)

Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Abhinav Ramnarayan and Julien Ponthus in London; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Mark Potter