Hilton in talks after unsolicited bid received for Labroke Casinos arm

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Hilton, the luxury hotels and betting group, yesterday confirmed that it had received an unsolicited approach regarding the possible sale of its Ladbroke Casinos business.

Hilton, the luxury hotels and betting group, yesterday confirmed that it had received an unsolicited approach regarding the possible sale of its Ladbroke Casinos business.

In a statement, the company said: "This approach is currently under consideration and discussions, which are at a very early stage, are taking place which may or may not lead to an offer."

It is understood that the unnamed bidder is Gala Group, the UK's biggest bingo operator, which is privately held and backed by the private equity arm of Credit Suisse First Boston.

Analysts said Hilton's willingness to open talks about the possible sale could indicate that it would consider offers for its Ladbrokes betting business. David Michels, Hilton's chief executive, had said at the group's half-year results in August that a demerger of the hotels and gaming units was not on the immediate agenda, although it could not be ruled out.

Nigel Reed, an analyst at BNP Paribas, said: "One would hope there is a price for anything in order that shareholders get the best value for their investment." He said the disposal of the casino arm "would move [Hilton] a little bit closer to becoming a pure hotel company".

Hilton owns 27 casinos in the UK, with five in London and 22 located in the provinces. Gala is thought to be interested in the regional assets. Hilton's overseas casino operations in Egypt, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man are not thought to be part of the discussions. Hilton shares yesterday closed unchanged at 189p.

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