888, the online gambling company, has signalled its interest in buying william hills european business should it be sold as part of the bookmakers proposed 2.9bn acquisition by caesars.

Itai pazner, chief executive of 888, said the group was in a good position to make acquisitions.

We are going to look at any asset that can be relevant for us, and within that list, if that opportunity [to buy william hills assets] comes our way that could be relevant for us, he said.

Mr pazners comments came shortly after the william hill board said on wednesday that it had recommended a 2.9bn offer for the company from caesars entertainment to its shareholders. as part of the deal, caesars said it would seek alternative owners for william hills uk and european business, while retaining its us operation.

Profits at 888 have surged as a result of the pandemic, as consumers turned to its online gambling products to entertain themselves during lockdowns.

It said on wednesday that pre-tax profits rose 130 per cent to $50.9m in the first six months of 2020 compared with the same period last year, in part thanks to a sharp rise in the number of players signing up to play poker on its platform.

Revenue increased 37 per cent to $379m over the same period, prompting the company to upgrade its earnings outlook for the year and issue a special dividend of 2.8 cents per share on top of an interim dividend of 3.2 cents per share.

Shares in the company were up almost 25 per cent in morning trading in london. the stock is up more than 260 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

The results exceeded analyst forecasts. analysts at the stockbroker goodbody noted that the company had posted the highest growth of any listed gambling operator in the first half of the year.

Simon french, an analyst at canaccord genuity, noted that 888s remarkable growth had continued, with daily revenue in the three months to the end of september averaging 56 per cent more than the same period last year.

He upgraded his earnings forecast by 35 per cent but warned that maintaining such growth would be difficult as government job protection schemes ended and germany, an as yet unregulated gambling market, looked to tighten legislation.

Mr pazner said the uptick in poker playing really caught us by surprise, with the number of first-time players more than doubling during the first half of the year.

As a result of its popularity, the group plans to speed up the rollout of a new poker platform alongside a major marketing campaign for the game.

William hills uk and european business comprises roughly 1,400 betting shops in the uk as well as online operations in countries including the uk, sweden, italy and spain.