Ladbrokes still slugging oput with Coral ahead of merger
Betting giant Ladbrokes said its planned merger with Coral Group is still some way off and that for now its main focus is on out-performing its rival UK betting-shop chain.
The deal, announced last month, needs to get past Britain's Competition and Markets Authority, and with the two companies controlling about 45pc of the UK's betting offices, analysts say the outcome remains in the balance.
Initial talks have taken place with the regulator and Ladbrokes has a team of as many as 20 people working on the matter, chief executive Jim Mullen said yesterday. "We are preparing the framework for what we need to do and a team has been ring-fenced to look at that," Mr Mullen said.
Ladbrokes, whose Irish arm recently emerged from Examinership, and Coral are coming together to counter a tide of online competition, which has seen increasing numbers of gamblers shifting to the internet from conventional betting shops. Reflecting the difficulties facing more traditional bookmakers, Ladbrokes reported a first-half loss yesterday after writing down the value of its 2,169 betting offices. The results had been flagged in last month's merger announcement.
Ladbrokes shares fell 0.1 pence to 109.9 pence at 10:38am in London yesterday, and are little changed this year.
To gain regulatory clearance for the Coral merger, Ladbrokes needs to clear a hurdle that it failed to in 1998, the last time it sought to acquire its competitor. The shift in the industry since then may increase its chances, with online gaming having grown to become a mainstream alternative to visiting a betting shop. Together, Ladbrokes and Coral control about 14pc of the UK digital gambling market. (Bloomberg)