Ladbrokes Coral in talks on takeover by GVC

Gambling giant Ladbrokes is in "detailed" talks over a takeover by online rival and Foxy Bingo owner GVC in a deal worth up to £3.9bn (€4.4bn).

GVC - which also owns Sportingbet and PartyCasino - has tabled a cash-and-shares approach valuing Ladbrokes at 160.9p a share, with loan notes on top worth an extra 42.8p a share.

The tie-up would create an online-led gambling giant with operations worldwide.

It would see Ladbrokes Coral shareholders own around 46.5% of the combined group and GVC around 53.5%.

GVC chief executive Kenneth Alexander is expected to lead the combined group, although the firms said plans for the final management line-up would be worked out over the coming weeks.

The firms said: "The enlarged group would be an online-led globally positioned betting and gaming business that would benefit from a multi-brand, multi-channel strategy applied across some of the strongest brands in the sector.

"The enlarged group would be geographically diversified with a large portfolio of businesses across both regulated and developing markets, with the scale and resources to address the dynamics of a rapidly changing global industry."

The talks come after two previous attempts at a deal between the pair, but the latest discussions broke down in the summer over price and ahead of the Government's gambling review.

The final price that GVC is prepared to pay for Ladbrokes depends on the outcome of the review of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOTBs), which could see the maximum stake slashed to as little as £2 from £100 (€114).

It comes amid a wave of consolidation in the sector, which has been under pressure pending the review, which is expected to significantly cut earnings from the lucrative betting machines - dubbed the crack cocaine of gambling.

Ladbrokes completed its £2.3bn (€2.6bn) merger with Coral in November last year, but it is understood GVC first approached Ladbrokes over a tie-up when it was finalising the deal.

GVC said it expects "material synergies" from a merger with Ladbrokes, which it would lay out in any forthcoming firm offer.

The combined group would have beefed up operations across some of the world's biggest regulated online gaming markets, including the UK, Italy and Australia.

"The enlarged group would have strong growth prospects with momentum in its online businesses, potential for material synergies including the use of leading proprietary technology, and the opportunity to select the best of both people and operations," the firms added.

Ladbrokes has nearly 3,700 bookies on the high street, while Isle of Man-based GVC has a raft of brands after a series of acquisitions, most recently snapping up bwin.party in February last year.


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