PokerStars Owner in Talks With William Hill on All-Stock Merger

Updated on
  • Talks may not result in deal, companies say in statement
  • Combined company could offer wide range of online betting

Amaya Inc., the Canadian operator of gambling websites including PokerStars, said it’s in talks on an all-stock merger with bookmaker William Hill Plc to create a company with a wide range of online betting options.

Amaya has been reviewing its strategic options since February, and William Hill has been looking for ways to move beyond bookmaking into digital and international businesses, the companies said Friday in a statement. The talks may not result in a deal, they said. Reuters reported earlier Friday the firm had received interest from both strategic players and private equity investors.

Amaya shares gained 8.2 percent to C$23.21 on the report, valuing the Pointe-Claire, Quebec-based company at C$3.36 billion ($2.53 billion). London-based William Hill fell 4.3 percent to 294.60 pence on Friday, valuing the company at 2.56 billion pounds ($3.17 billion).

A merger would conclude a roller-coaster ride for both companies this year. William Hill got a takeover offer in July from 888 Holdings Plc and Rank Group Plc, but talks fell apart. Amaya Chief Executive Officer David Baazov stepped down earlier this year amid an insider trading probe and pledged to try and take the company private himself. In February, Amaya said it had received a non-binding indication from Baazov that he was in discussion with investors to make an offer for the company valued at around C$2.8 billion, or C$21 a share.

Amaya became the world’s biggest online gambling company when it bought poker sites PokerStars and Full Tilt for $4.9 billion in 2014. Since then, it’s faced the ups and downs of changing regulation in the U.S. and the encroaching uncertainty of the insider trading probe.