William Hill Ends Takeover Talks

On November 2nd 2011 British bookmaker and internet gaming giant William Hill revealed that takeover talks with the Lady Lucks brand have been scrapped. William Hill walked away from talks with Gibraltar-based Probability, a company that claims to have one million customers in the UK for its internet bingo, poker and casino game operations. In recent years there has been a large increase in internet gambling thanks to new mobile applications that allow punters to use their smart phones to access internet gaming sites. William Hill did not say why the talks, which began in September, had ended but there is speculation that Playtech which holds a 21% stake in the company believed that a deal with Probability would hurt the company’s interests.

Currently William Hill offers online bingo, poker and casino games and is trying to increase the company’s internet presence so they can compete with rivals such as 888 Holdings, Wink Bingo and others. Following the announcement shares of William Hill rose slightly. In contrast Probability shares declined 16% and the company lost some of the gains it made after the talks were announced in September. Peel Hunt analyst Nick Batram stated “The deal with Probability was interesting but it was never going to be a game changer for William Hill. William Hill already has a good mobile phone offering, particularly on sports betting and it’s got the resources to drive forward its own mobile presence.” William Hill shares rose 5¾p to 215¼p while Probability shares declined 10p to 52½p.

In addition to its online operations William Hill is one of Britain’s largest bookmakers and recently the company has focused on its online operations. Recently William Hill was adversely affected by an employee walkout in the William Hill Online offices in Tel Aviv Israel, Bulgaria and the Philippines. Nearly 200 staff walked out in Tel Aviv. The Israeli offices handle marketing and customer support for William Hill’s online operations.  The employees believed that William Hill was going to close the Tel Aviv offices. The gaming giant fired seven managers and finally settled with the employees. There is speculation that the Tel Aviv managers had been plotting to set up their own rival business. The managers agreed to non-compete clauses in exchange for an undisclosed payoff. Industry observers consider William Hill Online a great success. Online operations contributed £91.1 million pounds to William Hill’s £276.8 million operating profit in 2010.