Private equity firms Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group were near a deal Sunday to buy Harrah's Entertainment Inc., with an announcement possible today, sources familiar with the situation said.
The Wall Street Journal reported on its website that the offer would be worth at least $90 a share, or $16.7 billion, based on 186 million shares outstanding.
Such a deal would be expected to make the acquisition one of the 10 largest corporate buyouts by private equity firms this year.
Details of the buyout of the world's largest casino company were still being worked out and the companies may fail to reach an agreement, sources said.
The takeover effort was set in motion more than two months ago, when Las Vegas-based Harrah's said Apollo and Texas Pacific had offered to buy it for $81 a share.
They raised the offer soon after, sources said. Penn National Gaming Inc. began considering a bid a few weeks ago, and last week Apollo and Texas Pacific were prepared to bid $87 a share.
Harrah's board had set a Tuesday deadline for bids.
Shares of Harrah's rose 40 cents to $79.50 on Friday as investors waited to see what the board would do.
Investors' confidence in a deal's being reached has been low since the offer was announced, as the casino licensing requirements would probably mean a gap of more than a year before the deal could be completed, experts have said.
The casino sector has been rife with deals this year as executives move to run their businesses away from the pressure of public markets amid strong demand from private equity firms, which are branching out to new areas and have hundreds of billions of dollars to spend. One company, Station Casinos, announced on Dec. 4 plans for a $4.7-billion management-led buyout.