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William Hill shares on the gallop after would-be bidders are left in the stalls

Accentuating the positives, chairman Gareth Davis said the second half had got off to a good start as he briefly outlined plans to grow the business digitally and internationally.

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The company stood its ground.

Somewhat surprisingly shares in the bookie William Hill opened strongly in early trade, posting a 5% gain.

The rise, which added around £135mln to the value of the company, followed the collapse of £3.4bn merger talks.

In a bid to shore up confidence the company said late Thursday profits will be near the top end of City expectations. It previously guided that the figure would be in the range of £260-£280mln.

Accentuating the positives, chairman Gareth Davis said the second half had got off to a good start as he briefly outlined plans to grow the business digitally and internationally.

Yesterday putative buyers Rank Group and 888 Holdings said they wouldn’t press the button on a joint deal that would have valued Hill at up 394p a share.

The pair’s withdrawal followed a put up-or-shut-up deadline imposed by the Takeover Panel and Hill’s unwillingness to come to the table.

“We strongly believe that the transaction would have created significant value for all three sets of shareholders,” said Rank chief Henry Birch.  Itai Freiberger, head of 888, added that he was disappointed William Hill “did not share our vision”.

Analysts always thought the bid was a bit of a non-runner, which might explain why the share price didn’t move quite as sharply upwards as it might when the interest emerged.

Analysts cited potential integration problems and the debt burden as big risks, while the bid premium was too low to excite William Hill management into action.

At 8.50am, the stock, which has fallen around a fifth in the past year, was up 15.5p at 318.6p, valuing the business at £2.6bn.

Quick facts: William Hill PLC

Price: 115.9 GBX

LSE:WMH
Market: LSE
Market Cap: £1.22 billion
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