Five-a-side players Goals and Powerleague aim to score with merger

(c) Sky News 2017: <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/five-a-side-players-goals-and-powerleague-aim-to-score-with-merger-10846373">Five-a-side players Goals and Powerleague aim to score with merger</a>
 

The UK's two most prominent operators of five-a-side football pitches are examining a surprise merger that would create a major international leisure player.

Sky News has learnt that stock market-listed Goals Soccer Centres (LSE: GOAL.L - news) and privately owned Powerleague have been discussing a combination of the two businesses.

It was unclear on Saturday (Shenzhen: 002291.SZ - news) what stage any discussions were at and what the likelihood of an eventual deal was.

A tie-up between Goals and Powerleague, which between them operate roughly 100 sites, would significantly increase their UK presence, as well as bringing under one corporate umbrella their venues in Ireland (Other OTC: IRLD - news) , the Netherlands and the US.

It was also unclear this weekend whether their substantial combined presence in the UK would trigger any competition issues, or how these might be addressed.

Goals, which was loss-making in 2015, returned to profit last year, and appointed Mark Jones, a former Grosvenor Casinos executive, as its new boss.

It also raised nearly £17m from investors to pay down debt.

The company has a market capitalisation of just under £77m.

Powerleague trades from more than 750 football pitches, and also owns Powerplay, a league operator across 240 UK venues.

In addition to football, it has a multi-sport offering including basketball, dodgeball and netball.

The company was bought by Patron Capital Partners, which focuses on buying businesses with substantial real estate assets, in 2009 in a deal which put an enterprise value on Powerleague of about £80m.

Previously listed on the London stock market, Powerleague has been expected to be put up for sale by Patron for some time.

The structure of a deal between Goals and Powerleague has yet to be finalised, according to insiders.

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