What to watch: £2.9bn bid for William Hill, LV= mulls deals, and Diageo sales rise

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·6 mins read
Triolo D'Alene after winning the williamhill.com Chase
Triolo D'Alene after winning the Williamhill.com Chase. Photo: Getty Images

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:

£2.9bn bid for William Hill

US casino giant Caesars Entertainment (CZR) has confirmed it is in “advanced discussions” with William Hill (WMH.L) about a possible takeover bid.

Caesars shared details of the possible offer on Monday, saying it was prepared to offer £2.9bn ($3.7bn) to buy William Hill. The 272p a share offer represents a 25% premium on William Hill’s share price prior to the confirmation of deal talks last week.

Caesars said the William Hill board has signalled it would back a bid at this level if officially tabled.

“The opportunity to combine our land based-casinos, sports betting and online gaming in the US is a truly exciting prospect,” Caesars chief executive Tom Reeg said in a statement.

“William Hill's sports betting expertise will complement Caesars' current offering, enabling the combined group to better serve our customers in the fast growing US sports betting and online market.”

William Hill said on Friday it had received two takeover approaches from Caesars and private equity group Apollo Management. No details were given of the value of either bid and shares surged last week. William Hill’s stock fell 12% on Monday to trade at 272.8p, roughly the value of the Caesars bid.

LV= mulls deals

Mutual insurer LV= has confirmed deal talks with “a number of parties,” after Sky News reported that the company was close to sealing a £500m merger.

Sky News reported on Saturday that LV= was the subject of a takeover bid from rival Royal London. Sky said private equity group Bain was also circling LV=.

LV= said in a statement on Monday it “has been and remains in discussions with a number of parties regarding a potential transaction.”

“Discussions are on-going and there can be no certainty that the discussions will result in any transaction being agreed or with whom,” the company said.

Diageo sales rise

Shares in Diageo (DGE.L), the drinks maker behind Johnnie Walker whisky and Guinness beer, jumped 6% after a bullish update on recent trading.

Chief executive Ivan Menezes said sales in the US had been “ahead of our expectations” and said Diageo was seeing “improvement in our performance across all regions.”

“I am pleased with the resilient performance of our business in the current challenging operating environment and encouraged by our progress,” Menezes said.

“While the pace of recovery is uncertain, I am confident in our strategy, the long-term fundamentals of our business and Diageo's ability to emerge stronger."

HSBC pops on Chinese investment

Shares in HSBC (HSBA.L) jumped over 10% at the open in London after China’s Ping An, the world’s biggest insurer, increased its investment in the bank.

Filings show Ping An spent around $40m (£31m) buying shares in HSBC at the end of last week. A Ping An spokesperson told the South China Morning Post the company had “a long-term investment” in HSBC.

“HSBC had lately sunk to a 25-year low after being named in reports relating to money laundering, so maybe this was some simple averaging-in by Ping An,” said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.

“Shares are only back to where they were a fortnight ago — when stocks have been beaten down as much as HSBC they are often ripe for larger percentage swings as investors try to figure out what is the real value.”

Stocks boosted by China data

Stocks rallied on Monday after strong industrial profit figures from China raised hopes that the slump in global economy this year may not be as bad as feared.

China’s industrial profits grew for the fourth straight month in August, according to official figures released on Sunday. Profits in the sector so far this year are now only 4.4% down on 2019.

The data helped create a buoyant mood among equity traders on Monday morning.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) rose 1% at the open in London, the DAX (^GDAXI) gained 1.7% in Frankfurt, and the CAC 40 (^FCHI) jumped 1.6% in Paris.

Connor Campbell, a financial analyst at SpreadEx, said European investors were “looking for an excuse to rebound after limping to a close last week.”

Wall Street looked set for a strong open later too. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were up 0.6%, Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were 0.7% higher, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) rose 0.6%.

Asian markets were mixed overnight. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) surged 1.3% and the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) rose 0.9%. However, mainland Chinese stock markets missed out on the rally — the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) was flat and the Shenzen Component (399001.SZ) fell 0.4%.

Aldi to create 4,000 new UK jobs

German supermarket group Aldi’s British arm said it would create a further 4,000 extra jobs and open 100 new stores as profits soar.

Aldi on Monday announced a £1.3bn ($1.7bn) investment plan in Britain over the next two years. Aldi said it would expand across the UK over the remainder of the year and in 2021. Its long-term target is to have 1,200 stores by 2025.

The plans to hire a 4,000 new staff members come on top of 3,000 new roles already created this year.

News of the expansion plans came as Aldi reported a 49% increase in profit for 2019.

Crunch week for Brexit trade talks

The pound rallied against the euro and dollar on Monday morning, amid rising optimism that a Brexit trade deal could be struck.

Various reports in the weekend press suggested that both the UK and EU were willing to make concessions in trade talks in a bid to reach a deal.

The Sunday Times reported that negotiators hope to enter the “tunnel” — the final, secret phase of deal talks — by the end of this week. The Financial Times carried a similar report on Sunday and quoted an unnamed Whitehall source as saying UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson “very much wants a deal.”

The pound was up 0.45% against the euro (GBPEUR=X) to €1.10 in early trade on Monday and up 0.4% against the dollar (GBPUSD=X) to $1.2794.

Brexit trade talks are set to resume this week, with time running out to strike a deal before the end of the year.

The UK’s negotiating team, led by Lord David Frost, will travel to Brussels on Tuesday to resume talks with EU counterparts on future trading arrangements. Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who is in charge of Brexit, is also heading to Brussels to meet with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic for high-level talks, the BBC reported.

Additional reporting by Lucy Harley-McKeown

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