LONDON- The Hilton Group Plc has confirmed that it has received an unsolicited offer to sell its casino business; however, it declined to identify the proposed buyer.
As to whether such a move would have any implications for a merger between it and Hilton Hotels International, of Beverly Hills, CA, Hilton Group dismissed the notion.
“Thats come up many, many times, and weve never ruled it out,” said a spokesperson for Hilton Group. “But weve never found a way of doing it that made sense, particularly with respect to shareholder value. Besides, weve got all the synergies wed get from the merger anyway, with the alliance.”
Earlier this week, the London Sunday Times reported that Gala Bingo, a bingo operator in the UK, was in discussions with Hilton Group to purchase its entire casino operation for as much as $365 million. It said the proposal was being “examined” by David Michels, Hilton Groups chief executive, and by Merrill Lynch & Co., which advises the company. Michels had previously stated that he intended to keep Hiltons casino business, although analysts said that selling them would “provide an attractive exit.”
Hilton Group owns 27 casinos, including the Barracuda, the Golden Horseshoe and Maxims in London. Last year, it added 22 casinos through the acquisition of the Stakis Hotel Group. According to HVS International, Gala is only interested in Hilton Groups UK casinos.
Hilton Group also owns more than 2,500 Ladbrokes gaming and betting shops in the UK, Ireland and Belgium. It announced last year that it was looking to sell a large majority of its international gaming businesses, although casinos were not thought to be included in this strategy.
Hilton Group stock closed trading Friday on the London exchange up 0.75 GBP, to 186.50. (10/20/00) –Jay Nussbaum