Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hilton Rebuffs the Ladbrokes Stalkers; CITY BRIEFING

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hilton Rebuffs the Ladbrokes Stalkers; CITY BRIEFING

Article excerpt

Byline: JIM ARMITAGE

HILTON GROUP was today forced to make a public rejection of the venture capitalists circling its Ladbrokes betting arm.

Since Hilton's plans to sell its hotel assets to its American affiliate, Hilton Hotels Corp for [pounds sterling]3.3 billion, it has received a host of approaches from buyout firms prepared to stump up about [pounds sterling]3.7 billion for the purchase of Ladbrokes.

The company had to issue a statement today after a report repeated that venture capitalist CVC had put forward a fully financed takeover offer.

Hilton said the CVC approach, like all the others it has received, was full of preconditions, making it unsuitable even to consider.

There are currently no talks with any bidders, a spokesman said.

Hilton is pressing ahead with its plan to continue Ladbrokes' status as a stock market-quoted company.

It is close to finalising how the business will be financed and structured, and will announce the details on 23 February. CVC's interest, which emerged early last month, is no surprise.

It made enormous profits from the flotation of William Hill when it floated in 2002 and last year was an underbidder for Coral Eurobet.

Other venture capitalists known to be interested in bidding include US buyout giants Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Blackstone as well as pan-European group BC Partners.

BC has been keen to get more exposure to the gambling market.

Last month it launched a e910million ([pounds sterling]621 million) bid to buy Hyatt Regency Hotels and Tourism's south-eastern European casinos operation.

Gambling is an extremely popular sector for private equity, particularly since Charterhouse Capital made hundreds of millions of pounds in profit from the sale of Coral to Gala, itself owned by venture capitalists.

Other recent deals have included Bridgepoint's takeover of casinos operator Groupe Moliflor Loisirs from rival venture capitalist Legal & General Ventures. …

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