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William Hill owner 888 sees shares jump on reported summer bid interest

William Hill owner 888 has seen its shares soar after takeover speculation (PA)
William Hill owner 888 has seen its shares soar after takeover speculation (PA)

William Hill owner 888 has seen its shares soar on mounting takeover speculation after the group was reportedly the target of a £700 million bid approach in the summer.

The gambling giant saw its shares jump as much as 21% higher at one stage in Monday morning trading after it is said to have rejected a takeover proposal worth 156p a share from rival Playtech.

FTSE 250-listed Playtech tabled a written indicative approach to buy 888 Holdings in July but this was rebuffed for being too low, according to The Sunday Times.

It comes weeks after it also reportedly emerged that US betting group DraftKings had also been eyeing 888 for a possible acquisition in the summer.

Shares in 888 surged on the latest reported bid interest as investors increasingly see the group in the line of fire for an opportunistic approach.

Its shares have had a torrid past year, slumping by nearly a fifth in the past six months alone.

The stock had fallen to 70.6p as of market close on Friday, less than half the value of the reported value of Playtech’s rejected approach.

But Playtech has also seen its shares come under pressure in recent months, down 30% in the past six months, as the sector has been impacted by tougher regulations introduced in the Government’s gambling white paper that was unveiled in April.

The report ramps up the pressure on 888 chair Lord Jonathan Mendelsohn and new chief executive Per Widerstrom to boost the firm’s dismal share price performance, which is set to see it kicked out of the FTSE 250 Index later this month.

Victoria Scholar, head of investment at interactive investor, said: “888 has suffered a series of setbacks lately with a profit warning in September, UK regulatory headwinds amid a clampdown on player safety, and a series of C-suite changes including the departure of its former CEO in January which sent shares tumbling at the time.”

Analysts at Numis said: “We think there is merit to a combination but five months on, both firms’ fortunes have deteriorated with their share prices down some 30%.”

Both 888 and Playtech declined to comment.