Ladbrokes Coral in talks on takeover by GVC

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GVC, which owns the Bwin and Sportingbet brands, would hold 53.5 per cent of the combined group.

This is the third time in a 12 months when GVC Holdings has held merger talks with Ladbrokes Coral, which is now one of the largest bookmakers not only in the United Kingdom, but globally as well.

In a joint statement, the companies said GVC has offered to buy Ladbrokes Coral for about £3.9bn.

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.

Shares in the 230-year-old Ladbrokes jumped 26 percent in early trading, while GVC shares rose 6 percent on confirmation of the long-rumored offer, which is in cash and shares.

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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.

Now, as the United Kingdom government's ongoing regulatory review continues to cast a shadow over the gambling sector, it would appear that Ladbrokes' management is keen to get a deal done.

"GVC's recent move to exit Turkey cleared the last barrier and LCL shareholders should be pleased to see the firm is now better insulated against the vagaries of the United Kingdom market", said Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital.

The final price GVC pays will depend on the outcome of this review into fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which are big moneyspinners for companies like Ladbrokes but have come under fire for leaving gamblers with very heavy losses.

Part of GVC's offer is conditional on the outcome of the government review. The previous negotiations between the two companies have been unsuccessful due to disagreements over the potential companies' value.

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Last month, GVC announced the sale of its Turkish subsidiary, removing a potential obstacle to a deal with Ladbrokes, which had raised this as one sticking point during August's talks.

"This triennial review has run and run and run and with the political climate in the United Kingdom who knows how much longer it may well run for?" he said.

Ladbrokes Coral - which operates 3,500 shops across England, Wales and Scotland - would receive 32.7p in cash and 0.141 ordinary GVC shares for each Ladbrokes Coral share.

Following a £2.3 billion merger past year between Ladbrokes and Coral, the firm became the UK's biggest High Street bookmaker. The latter would fall as online grows, he added.

The two companies believe that a combination could create material shareholder value.

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