Despite protests from investors, William Hill’s £2.9bn takeover by Caesars Entertainment has been approved in a UK court.
According to the UK bookmarker on Tuesday, the High Court had authorized the deal, and the bookmarker was required on April 22 to delist from the UK stock exchange.
Initially, the court ruling was delayed following several letters of protests from investors that were submitted to the company’s board. According to the information from the protesters, William Hill failed to reveal material information about the deal with US bookmarker Caesars. Perhaps there could be another potential deal that would have brought in a higher big for the company.
Caesars indicated that it could cancel its joint venture with William Hill in case the company was purchased by one of its “restricted acquirers” as per Caesars’ decisions. However, the hedge funds argued that William Hill failed to disclose until the shareholder voting day in November that Caesars could only add up to six names in their restricted acquirers’ list. Moreover, Caesars could only substitute just ones of the names after every six months.
Since the start of April, William Hill’s shares have not fallen below the 272p per share, as hedge funds expected that the court might reject and rule against the deal because of the unusually long period between hearing and judge’s ruling.
After it was announced on Tuesday that the takeover deal was good to go, the stock fell back to 272p for each share in the afternoon. On the other hand, Caesar’s shares went up by 3% as pre-market trading started in New York.
According to HBK Capital Management (which has a 10% exposure to William Hill), the board made it look like there was no other external bid that would have been made possible.
They wrote to the board that they believed that the shareholder voting was done without information that would have allowed them to weigh their actual merits.
GWM Asset Management was also among the hedge funds that strongly protested the deal claiming that the outcome was “incredibly disappointing.” They argued that William Hill should have been ESG friendly and proactive in disclosing important information and case a new vote.
Judge Alastair Norris noted in his ruling that five hedge funds alongside a sixth private investor issued their objections and that the offer didn’t impress all shareholders. He also noted that the deal’s documents had sufficient information to help shareholders make a sound decision.
Caesars’ offer to takeover William Hill had gone through successfully in September after battling with Apollo Global Management.
The deal is one of the various takeover deals by US casino companies looking to venture into the lucrative sports betting market from mature European operators.
Caesars noted that it has laid out plans to offload William Hill’s operations outside the US borders. It’s speculated that Apollo might be the frontrunner to take over the business.