GVC, Ladbrokes Coral in 'detailed' talks over merger

Newbury Races

Bookmaker GVC Holdings has offered to buy Ladbrokes Coral for up to $5.2 billion to create a global online and high street betting giant able to take on rivals and cope with a tougher regulatory environment. Based on these terms, GVC shareholders would hold roughly 53.5% and LCL's 46.5% of the enlarged business.

The value of the CVR, which would be satisfied by the issue of loan notes by GVC, will be determined by the outcome of the UK's ongoing Triennial Review relating to the regulation of Category B2 fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) and its estimated impact on the run-rate profitability of Ladbrokes Coral's United Kingdom business.

A combination of GVC, which owns online gambling platforms including Partypoker and Sportingbet, and betting-shop operator Ladbrokes Coral could spark even more consolidation in the sector.

The offer values Ladbrokes Coral at 160.9 pence per share, equating to a total equity value of around 3.1 billion pounds, plus a contingent fee of up to 42.8 pence a share, depending on the outcome of the government review.

GVC chief executive Kenneth Alexander is expected to lead the combined group, although the firms said plans for the final management line-up would be worked out over the coming weeks.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said in October that the government would cut the maximum bet on the machines from £100 to between £2 and £50.

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It is the latest move in a wave of mergers and takeovers in the gaming and betting industry and comes just a year after Ladbrokes (Amsterdam: LB6.AS - news) and Gala Coral completed a tie-up to form Ladbrokes Coral.

The combined group would have beefed-up operations across some of the world's biggest regulated online gaming markets, including the UK, Italy and Australia.

GVC said it expects the deal would results in "material synergies which will create value for both sets of shareholders" and that it will increase earnings per share by a double-digit rate from the first full year post-completion.

In November, GVC sold its Turkish business for up to €150mln to Ropso Maltato to pave the way for potential merger with Ladbrokes Coral.

Speculation about a combination of GVC and Ladbrokes emerged previous year.

"GVC got lucky at the third attempt and LCL shareholders can count their winnings", said analyst Neil Wilson at ETX Capital.

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