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Abby Messick – William Hill, Amaya abandon merger talks

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William Hill's online casino and sportsbook

William Hill’s online casino and sportsbook

Discussions of a merger between William Hill and Amaya have come to an end.

A potential deal looked to be on the horizon on 10 October, when the companies released a joint statement confirming they were in talks for a merger, which would lead to William Hill diversifying its digital and international business and Amaya finally finding a buyer. This “merger of equals” would have resulted in one of the world’s biggest online gambling businesses.

But British-based Parvus Asset Management, William Hill’s largest investor, opposed the union on the basis of the potential decrease in shareholder value. Parvus, who owns 14% of William Hill, postulated that Amaya’s poker business would weaken the company’s market position, as it does not see PokerStars, Amaya’s poker brand, as favorable. The recent trouble with the company’s former chief executive, David Baazov, was also seen as a drawback.

The uncertain status of poker in the U.S. throws yet another wrench into the works.

In a statement, William Hill’s board said, “Various exploratory due diligence and other workstreams were underway but far from complete. After canvassing views from a number of William Hill’s major shareholders, the Board has decided that it will not pursue discussions with Amaya.”

The Board also “wishes Amaya well for the future,” which is thoughtful, but seems an insufficient salve after the promise of a £5.7 billion merger.

William Hill is now in the mind of considering “strategic alternatives where they have the potential to create shareholder value,” according to the statement. Share buybacks, which were suspended in July, will be restarted. The dissolution of this merger comes shortly after talk of a takeover approach with Rank Group and 888 ended.

In a statement released by Amaya, Chairman Divyesh (Dave) Gadhia said, “Together with our financial advisors, we evaluated a wide range of strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value and have concluded that remaining an independent company is in the best interest of Amaya’s shareholders at this time. The Board has full faith in Amaya’s management to execute on its strategy and objectives.”

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