Rank and 888 propose three-way £3bn tie-up with William Hill

Library filer dated 23/4/2004 of a branch in South Kensington of the bookmaker William Hill which is to buy 624 betting shops from rival Stanley Leisure in a deal worth 504 million enabling the company to overtake Ladbrokes as Britain's biggest bookmaker. The deal which will leave William Hill with 2 237 licensed betting offices still requires the approval of shareholders and competition authorities. SEE PA story CITY WilliamHill. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo credit should read: Johnny Green / PA.

SHARES in William Hill, Rank Group and 888 rose sharply on Monday morning after the trio confirmed that a £3 billion three-way merger could be on the cards.

William Hill shares spiked 11 per cent, Rank rose 2.4 per cent and 888 was up almost 3 per cent after the opening.

Online operator 888 and casino giant Rank came clean over their interest in a merger with William Hill over the weekend, with the firms adding on Monday: "The consortium sees significant industrial logic in the combination, through consolidation of their complementary online and land-based operations, delivery of substantial revenue and cost synergies and from the anticipated benefits of economies of scale which will accrue to all shareholders."

For its part, William Hill said it "would listen to and consider any proposal which might be forthcoming".

However, it added that it is "not clear that a combination of William Hill with 888 and Rank will enhance William Hill's strategic positioning or deliver superior value to William Hill's strategy which is focused on increasing the group's diversification by growing its digital and international businesses."

Just last week, William Hill chief executive James Henderson stepped down after the firm was hit by profit warnings and sliding sales under his tenure.

It came after the bookie announced in May that net revenues tumbled 3 per cent and online sales fell 11 per cent in the first quarter as the firm took a hit from punters cashing in on bets on Cheltenham and the European football.

William Hill itself failed in a bid to buy 888 in 2015 after failing to agree an offer price with a major shareholder.

888 and Rank have until August 21 to formally announce their intention to make an offer for William Hill.

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