GVC Holdings tables $5.2bn Ladbrokes Coral takeover bid

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While a GVC takeover of Ladbrokes Coral has always been rumoured, the timing of the deal, before the new rules on FOBTs are announced, took some by surprise.

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.

Gambling giant Ladbrokes Coral is in "detailed" talks over a takeover by online rival GVC over a deal that could value the group at up to £3.9bn.

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The offer values Ladbrokes Coral at 160.9 pence per share, equating to a total equity value of around 3.1 billion pounds, plus a contingent fee of up to 42.8 pence a share, depending on the outcome of the government review.

A potential deal would give Ladbrokes Coral shareholders around 46.5 per cent of the combined group.

The move comes as gambling groups face tougher regulation, with the government set to crack down on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

The firms said: "The enlarged group would be an online-led, globally positioned betting and gaming business that would benefit from a multibrand, multichannel strategy applied across some of the strongest brands in the sector".

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Any transaction would also enhance the enlarged group's position in a number of the world's largest regulated online gaming markets, including the UK, Italy and Australia, and would significantly increase GVC's current share of revenues from locally regulated/taxed markets to more than 90 percent.

The merger would follow previous combinations like that of Paddy Power and Betfair as well as Ladbrokes with Coral.

GVC expects the deal to boost earnings from its first full year after completion, even if the Government decides on the biggest possible curbs on gaming machines.

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. Turkey had presented a roadblock in GVC's quest to buy Ladbrokes Coral since it is an unregulated market and vulnerable to sudden clampdowns. GVC shareholders would be entitled to the rest.

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But he said that GVC's pricing hedge "makes sense", as did the strategic rationale for the deal.

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