Competition watchdog clears £4bn Ladbrokes Coral and GVC tie-up

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Ladbrokes Coral and Foxy Bingo owner GVC have seen their £4 billion tie-up to create one of the world’s largest betting firms given the all-clear by Britain’s competition watchdog.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said its investigation found the deal “does not give rise to competition concerns”.

It said GVC has a small presence in the UK and only offers services online.

The competition watchdog added that GVC and Ladbrokes are “not close rivals and there are many other providers of betting and gaming services online”.

It said its probe “looked closely at betting services for individual sports and individual games but found that, in all cases, there will be enough rivals to the merged entity to prevent price increases or a reduced quality of service as a result of the merger”.

It sees the deal clear the last hurdle, after shareholders at GVC and Ladbrokes voted to approve the merger earlier this month.

The deal will see the creation of an online-led global gambling giant, combining Ladbrokes’ high street and online operations with GVC’s stable of brands, including Sportingbet and PartyCasino.

It follows two previous attempts at a combination between the pair, with the most recent discussions breaking down last summer over price and amid uncertainty ahead of the Government’s gambling review.

The recommendations of the review were finally announced on Monday in what came as a boost to the betting sector, with the gambling regulator saying the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) should be cut to a higher-than-expected £30 limit.

Shares of gambling groups like Ladbrokes Coral surged on the news, with experts having expected it could have been cut as low as £20.

Under the terms of the Ladbrokes takeover, GVC will own around 53.5% of the enlarged group and its chief executive, Kenneth Alexander, will take the reins.

The initial value of the deal stands at £3.2 billion, rising to a potential £4 billion.

The duo have already said the combination will result in cost savings of at least £100 million a year.

Ladbrokes only completed its £2.3 billion merger with Gala Coral in November last year, but it is understood GVC first approached Ladbrokes over a takeover when it was finalising the deal.

Ladbrokes has nearly 3,700 bookies on the high street and more than 25,000 staff, while GVC has a raft of brands after a series of acquisitions, most recently snapping up in February last year.

GVC employs 2,800 employees and contractors throughout 15 offices globally.

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