Boyle heads back where he started with acquisition of NI stores
Irish bookmaker Boylesports has acquired two stores in Northern Ireland for a seven figure sum as it looks to expand beyond the Republic. John Boyle's first store was established in Markethill in Co Armagh and now he has snapped up two more, located in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, and Newry in Co Down.
"That is just the beginning - our plans now are to open as many shops as become available for sale in Northern Ireland," Boyle told the Sunday Independent.
"If existing stores of any independents or privately-owned groups were for sale we would be interested in expanding in the North."
"I had my first shop there in 1982, now as they say I'm coming home. I'm moving back to where I started, in the sense of getting shops.
"We're in the business now of wanting to cover the North the same as the South with Boylesports stores.
The bookmaker, founded by entrepreneur John Boyle, is also aiming to acquire potentially hundreds of stores in the UK that will come on the market in order for the proposed Ladbrokes-Coral merger to get regulatory approval. The precise price he would offer won't become clear until they know how many stores are up for grabs, and how much money they make, but Boyle estimates it would be an outlay of £100m-plus.
"It is very early days, I was reading up on it this morning. We were told, going on it by postcodes that there would be possibly 615 stores. Reading a report just online this morning... it would be possibly be a lot less, so at this moment, it's just too early to know how many stores would be in play."
Boyle made a €25m bid to acquire Ladbrokes' Irish arm, but the bid was rejected by Ladbrokes' examiner.
"We went all out to get it. We didn't get it. Of course there was disappointment when the examiner decided to favour Ladbrokes. A bigger concern for us was the competition authority and getting it through in 100 days, so that was that and we just had to move on. We put our best foot forward.
"As it is now in Ireland, we've 210 stores, so I'm saying you can't go much further. I've always said about 250 stores in the south of Ireland would well cover us in all counties.
"So now I have to look at my next step and where is my next step. Now I'm looking, and have been for a few years, at possibilities in the UK.
"Northern Ireland's different, it's a small six-county province - when you go to the UK I'd be looking for a bigger set up, like the possibility that may come up now with Ladbrokes Coral."
Boyle is also looking a moving into the lucrative Asian betting market.
"In Asia, we're in Manila and we have an office there with 100 people in it. It would be a big possibility because it's a betting capital. We're looking and we're talking to people at the minute, so hopefully by 2016 we would be able to be up and running, the way things are moving."
Boylesports is debt-free and has turnover of around €1bn. Boyle said that with the help of the company's institutions and backers, it can take on anything it bids for.
He said most of the €25m it would have paid for Ladbrokes Ireland would have come from in-house funds.
"When you're debt-free, and the sort of stock that we have, we've bought a lot of stores in the last three or four years, and a lot of properties over the last maybe two or three years that have come up that we were already tenants in. So we have a good stock on our balance sheet".
"When we went for Ladbrokes there, and we thought we were close to getting it over the line and we didn't get it, you do get a bit disappointed. Now going into the next one, we'd like to feel: 'Ok, something good has to happen to the company now in the next 12 months to keep our growth.'"
Sunday Indo Business