William Hill Board Blocks Merger - Wednesday 21st of December 2005

UNITED KINGDOM – As reported by the UK Sunday Times: "The board of William Hill, Britain's second-biggest bookmaker, has blocked a £4 billion all-share merger with Rank Group, the bingo and casino giant.

"The deal was called off within the past fortnight after David Harding, William Hill's chief executive, made a presentation to board colleagues who include his chairman Charles Scott, the former advertising executive, and non-executive director David Allvey.

"The merger was rejected because of the companies' different ratings on the stock exchange. William Hill has a low rating compared with Rank, whose share price has been buoyed by persistent bid speculation. However, Harding and Mike Smith, his opposite number at Rank, remain on friendly terms and the talks could still be revived.

"The tentative talks between Rank, which is advised by Goldman Sachs, and William Hill, which is advised by Citigroup, are understood to have been instigated by the bookmaker. The Rank board was aware of the approach but it had not been put to a vote.

"…Analysts are confident the two sides will still be able to find some common ground. A merger of the two groups would create a gaming and betting giant to challenge Gala, which acquired Coral, Britain's third largest bookmaker, this year…"

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