888 ‘best-placed for Bwin deal’

Takeover suitor 888 Holdings insisted it was best placed to seal a tie-up with FoxyBingo owner bwin.party amid signs it could be jilted at the altar in favour of a rival £1 billion proposal.

Brian Mattingley, the 888 boss, insisted that its agreement last month to buy bwin for £898.3m in a cash-and-share deal had a “greater intrinsic value”, with a larger cash element than that in the higher offer from Sportingbet owner GVC.

But he refused to rule out upping the bid should bwin be lured away by GVC, which has persistently tried to gatecrash the deal - and admitted he was likely to be in for a busy Bank Holiday weekend as the saga reaches its denouement.

Meanwhile, GVC chief executive Kenneth Alexander said his firm was “determined that GVC will play an important role in the continuing consolidation of the online gaming sector” and expected to update the market soon on talks with bwin.

The battle comes in the midst of major changes in the gambling market - as Ladbrokes merges with Coral and a Paddy Power tie-up with Betfair in the offing.

Latest developments on the bwin battle came as online gaming firm 888 reported a 41 per cent slump in half-year profit before tax, as the group was hit by tax changes and currency movements. Mr Mattingley faced questions after bwin this week reported progress on talks with Isle of Man-based GVC and said that 888 “will be given due notice in the event that bwin.party proposes to recommend an offer from GVC”.