Bookmaker William Hill has scrapped plans for a multibillion-pound merger with Canadian online poker giant Amaya just days after its largest shareholder openly opposed the deal.
The London-based betting firm said it would consider alternative plans that have the potential to grow sales, fleshing out its four priorities: "online, technology, efficiencies and international". The company will also restart share buybacks, which it suspended in July.
Last week, Parvus Asset Management — an activist investor with a history of blocking large takeovers — waded into the discussions, accusing William Hill of pursuing a tie-up that had “limited strategic logic” and would “destroy shareholder value”. Parvus has a 14.3pc stake in the company.
“After canvassing views from a number of William Hill’s major shareholders, the board has decided that it will not pursue discussions with Amaya," the bookmaker said today. “Accordingly, the board has informed Amaya that it is withdrawing from discussions and wishes Amaya well for the future.”
William Hill was in talks with Amaya, the parent company of the PokerStars online casino, even before it received a £3bn takeover bid from a consortium of Rank Group and 888 Holdings, which it subsequently rejected in August.
The company — which is currently seeking a new chief executive after ousting James Henderson for failing to revive its struggling online business — said performance had continued to be positive in the second half of the year.
William Hill expects operating profit for 2016 to be at the top end of the previously guided range of £260m to £280m.