William Hill's share price surged on Friday with confirmation they are at the centre of a potential bidding war after receiving takeover proposals from both US casino operator Caesars Entertainment and private equity giant Apollo Global Management.
They were responding to a report by Bloomberg that Apollo, which is also bidding to buy supermarket chain Asda, had approached William Hill about a potential deal.
There had also been speculation recently that Hills had been in discussions to merge their US sports betting and online gaming operations with Caesars, which already owns a 20 per cent stake in William Hill US.
William Hill have been increasingly focusing on the burgeoning American market as more states legalise sports betting following the lifting of restrictions there in 2018.
The bookmaker's share price had risen sharply on Friday following Bloomberg's report and after the bookmaker's statement it climbed further, rising by more than 43 per cent on the day to close at 312.20p on Friday evening.
Hills said in a statement that their board had "noted the recent press speculation regarding a possible offer for William Hill".
They confirmed the company had received separate cash proposals from Apollo and Caesars, adding: "Following an initial written proposal from Apollo on August 27 2020, William Hill received a further proposal from Apollo and proposals from Caesars."
The statement continued: "Discussions between William Hill and the respective parties are ongoing. There can be no certainty that any offer for William Hill will be made, nor as to the terms on which any offer might be made."
Hills said Apollo and Caesars were required to announce a firm intention to make an offer by 5pm on October 23. They added: "A further announcement will be made if and when appropriate."
The news brought speculation about what might happen to William Hill following any deal. Goodbody Stockbrokers gaming and leisure analyst Gavin Kelleher said the US is the "key attraction with William Hill".
He added: "Another interesting angle is the plans Apollo and/or Caesars have for the non-US part of William Hill.
"The William Hill online business is somewhat subscale relative to larger competitors – could we see this business spun-off and/or a new owner look to scale it up with further M&A [mergers and acquisitions]?"
Shares in other gambling stocks also rose following the news, with Ladbrokes Coral owner GVC Holdings ending the day up by more than 16 per cent at 998.4p and Flutter Entertainment, parent company of Paddy Power Betfair and Sky Bet, nearly seven per cent higher at 12,680p.