Saturday 22 October 2016

BoyleSports seeks stewards' inquiry after 'higher bid' for shops rejected

Published 18/10/2016 | 02:25

In a statement BoyleSports said it is
In a statement BoyleSports said it is "disappointed" that Ladbrokes and Gala Coral have agreed to sell their 359 shops to two UK retailers, despite a higher bid from Ireland.

Boylesports is eyeing new takeover targets in Britain after being pipped at the post to buy almost 360 betting shops from Ladbrokes and Gala Coral, the Irish Independent has learned.

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Yesterday, the Irish betting chain effectively accused Ladbrokes and Gala Coral of trying to block its entry into the UK market.

In a statement BoyleSports said it is "disappointed" that Ladbrokes and Gala Coral have agreed to sell their 359 shops to two UK retailers, despite a higher bid from Ireland.

The Irish betting chain said its bid was higher than the £55.5m (€60m) achieved in the sale of 322 retail outlets to Betfred and 37 stores to Stan James.

BoyleSports said its higher offer was fully funded, cognisant of the changing political and regulatory UK landscape, and could have been completed within two weeks of acceptance.

"BoyleSports believes the decision not to allow a challenger brand onto the UK high street is bad for retail consumers who would have benefited from the keen pricing and excellent service already available to our existing Irish retail customers and to online customers in Ireland and the UK," the company said in a statement.

"BoyleSports will be communicating its concerns to the Competition and Markets Authority and is reviewing its options on what other steps may be open to us."

A spokesman for Ladbrokes said: "Although they are well within their rights to raise their views with the CMA, we are comfortable with our decision based on the bids received in the process.

"It was critical for us to achieve levels of certainty within a suitable timescale to enable us to move towards completion and realise the outstanding opportunities that the merger provides."

And a spokesman for Gala Coral Group said: "We are not commenting on specific bidders but have previously said that there were multiple other interested parties, some of which offered a significantly higher price.

"However, certainty and timetable were always our priority to enable us to focus on realising our merger with Ladbrokes which will create very substantial value for shareholders."

Back in July it was the Competition and Markets Authority that ordered the sale of the retail outlets as a precondition for a planned £2.2bn merger of Ladbrokes and Gala Coral.

Ladbrokes boss Jim Mullen said: "The sale of these shops will clear the last significant hurdle to delivering on the merger with Coral and paves the way for our focus on completion and quickly delivering on the opportunities the merger offers."

BoyleSports is the biggest independent betting chain in the Irish market with over 200 stores. Founder John Boyle has long held ambitions to become a player in the UK. The company employs 1,700 across the company.

In 2008, it made a move to buy the UK's then state-owned Tote business, but also lost out to BetFred.

Plans to expand beyond the Irish market were effectively put on ice during the recession, when Boylesports targeted expansion at home, including buying assets from Ivan Yates' Celtic Bookmakers and the Hackett's chain.

BoyleSports made a €25m bid to acquire Ladbrokes' Irish arm, but the bid was rejected by an Examiner appointed to the business, but was knocked back and the incumbent retained the Irish chain although the Examinership saw 53 of the 196 Ladbrokes outlets here shut.

Boylesport is looking to grow in a fast consolidating sector. Earlier this year, Paddy Power and Betfair completed their huge merger.

Irish Independent

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