Thursday 22 March 2018

Irish bookmakers Boylesports confirms it will look to buy Ladbrokes-Coral shops

John Boyle CEO of Boylesports
John Boyle CEO of Boylesports
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Irish bookmaker Boylesports has confirmed it will look at buying up to 400 UK betting shops that must be sold by the combined Ladbrokes and Gala Coral group to meet merger rules.

Earlier today the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Ladbrokes and Coral might have to sell 350 to 400 betting shops in order for their proposed merger to be cleared.

Reacting to the decision, Irish company Boylesports said it had thrown up a chance to expand on a large scale.

"We welcome this morning's decision by the UK's Competition and Markets Authority concerning the proposed merger of Ladbrokes and Gala Coral. The possible availability of between 350 and 400 shops offers a clear opportunity for Boylesports to realise its long-term ambition to develop a significant retail presence in the UK."

Company’s founder John Boyle has previously estimated that the company would spend over £100m to enter the British market in scale. Boylesports is the biggest independent betting chain in the Republic and has operations in Northern Ireland, where it was first established.

Boylesports has previously made a €25m bid to acquire Ladbrokes’ Irish arm, but the bid was rejected by an Examiner appointed to the business.

The CMA said an independent panel identified 659 local areas “where it provisionally found that the merger (of Ladbrokes and Gala Coral) may be expected to result in a substantial loss of competition, which could lead to a worsening of the offer made to customers at both a local and national level.”

“Although online betting has grown substantially in recent years, the evidence we’ve seen confirms that a large number of customers still choose to bet in shops - and many would continue to do so after the merger,” a spokesman said.

“For these customers, competition comes from the choice of shops in their local area... we’re also concerned that such a widespread potential reduction in competition at the local level could worsen those elements that are set nationally such as odds and betting limits,” he added. Ladbrokes won shareholder backing for the £2.3bn merger despite opposition from Irish financier Dermot Desmond.

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