GVC places £4bn bet on takeover of Ladbrokes

Russell Lynch
Bookies Ladbrokes Coral and GVC in renewed merger talks: The Washington Post/Getty Images

Online betting tycoon Kenny Alexander’s GVC Holdings was set to land bookie Ladbrokes Coral on Thursday with a takeover deal worth up to £3.9 billion.

The long-expected merger is poised to get over the line at the third time of asking following on-off talks for the past year.

It creates a FTSE 100 betting giant with extensive online operations as well as Ladbrokes Coral’s 3500 UK bookies and gaming revenues of more than £3 billion, dwarfing nearest rivals Bet365 and William Hill.

Ladbrokes Coral is the biggest deal to date for multi-millionaire Alexander, who began his career as an accountant in a Scottish meat plant before switching to the burgeoning online gaming sector nearly two decades ago.

His GVC vehicle bought Sportingbet in 2012, carving up the business with William Hill, and in 2016 landed bwin.partygaming in a £1.1 billion deal.

The latest industry deal comes as players look to bulk up to weather increased regulation and tax hikes on online betting, driving economies of scale.

Alexander, who will lead the new business as Ladbrokes Coral boss Jim Mullen departs, said: “If you want to win in this industry, you have to be diversified, you have to have scale and you have to focus on regulated markets.”

Among a raft of territories, the company will have the top three positions in Europe’s biggest markets — the UK, Germany and Italy — as well as a significant presence in the US and Australia. It is understood GVC could drive around £100 million in savings from the combination.

GVC, which owns Foxy Bingo, has previously been an online-only operator but Alexander is “100% committed” to keeping Ladbrokes Coral’s betting shops, he added.

GVC is paying cash and shares but the final amount depends on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s decision on the maximum stakes allowed on controversial betting machines, which account for more than half of profits from Ladbrokes Coral’s betting shops.

If ministers decide to cap stakes at £20, seen as the most likely outcome, GVC will end up paying around £3.7 billion.