Hilton Group confirmed the Financial Times reports that private equity groups BC Partners, Blackstone and CVC Capital contacted the Watford-based company about buying Ladbrokes in a deal that could value the betting business up to £4 billion.
Hilton said in a statement that it remained focused on selling the UK-based group\’s hotel assets and that a deal with Hilton Hotels is weeks rather than months away. Hilton also said to have “great confidence” in the future of the betting division of its business.
Industry sources close to the company suggested that an IPO of Ladbrokes was likely if the sale of the hotels business falls through.
Barry Dixon, an analyst at Davy Stockbrokers, said the whole group is undervalued and Ladbrokes is an attractive business in terms of management, cashflow and growth potential, particularly in online poker where it has the largest European site.
Ladbrokes Chief Executive Chris Bell, which is believed to have been patiently harbouring ambitions to be at the helm of a demerged bookmaking operation for some time, said that a standalone Ladbrokes could offer bets to the US.
Bell has not ruled out launching a Ladbrokes betting exchange and is also thought to be considering launching a bid for the National Lottery license in partnership with Greek lottery operator INTRALOT.
One of the private equity groups interested in buying Ladbrokes is CVC Capital, which previously bought and floated Ladbrokes\’ main rival William Hill, and which earlier this year attempted to buy Coral Eurobet.