Betting firms told they must sell shops

2015 Ladbrokes St Leger Festival at Doncaster Racecourse.     Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire
2015 Ladbrokes St Leger Festival at Doncaster Racecourse. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire
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Bookmakers Ladbrokes and Gala Coral will have to sell between 350 and 400 shops to win clearance for their merger, the British competition regulator said yesterday.

In the provisional findings of a review of the deal, the Competition and Markets Authority said a tie-up between the second and third-largest bookmakers may give rise to competition concerns in a number of local areas. “In order to resolve these concerns, around 350 to 400 shops may have to be sold for the merger to be conditionally cleared,” it said.

Ladbrokes operates 2,154 betting shops in Britain and 77 in Northern Ireland and Coral operates around 1,850 betting shops in Britain. Ladbrokes agreed the terms of a £2.3bn all-share merger with Coral in July, and the company’s shareholders backed the deal in November.

In February, Ladbrokes announced it had made its first full-year loss in a decade. It slumped to a £43.2m pre-tax loss against profits of £37.7m the year before. Gala Coral made an operating loss of £28.2m for the year ending September 26, compared with a profit of £43.6m a year earlier.