GVC’s latest bid for Lads Coral fails; PartyPoker exit Australia


gvc-ladbrokes-coral-acquisition-talksUK-listed online gambling operator GVC Holdings has once again aborted discussions to acquire UK rival Ladbrokes Coral Group.

On Tuesday, UK media reported that GVC had made a new offer to acquire Ladbrokes Coral, the online/retail gambling behemoth created last year via the £2.2b merger of Ladbrokes and Gala Coral Group. Sources claimed talks had been going on for several weeks but fell apart for a number of reasons, including a failure to agree on a valuation of the company.

The Financial Times reported that GVC had offered £2.7b for Lads Coral, or roughly 140p per share, although GVC reportedly proposed boosting that per-share offer by 50p, which would have pushed the total offer to £3.6b.

This £900m top-up was reportedly contingent on the findings of the UK government’s pending triennial review of the gambling industry. The review, which is expected to be released this autumn, could result in further restrictions on gambling advertising as well as potentially significant curbs on the use of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in betting shops. Ladbrokes Coral relies on FOBTs for a significant chunk of its revenue.

This marks GVC’s second attempt at acquiring Ladbrokes Coral. The original effort came to light last December, when UK media reported that Ladbrokes Coral had spurned GVC’s £3.2b offer for the newly merged entity. The fact that GVC has apparently returned to the table so soon illustrates GVC CEO Kenny Alexander’s appetite for exploring “further acquisition opportunities should they arise.” So where’s the offer for the struggling William Hill, hmmm?

In other GVC news, the company’s PartyPoker brand has announced it will exit the Australian market as of August 31. A note posted to PartyPoker’s official blog referenced the Australian government’s recent approval of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Act, which explicitly prohibits online poker play (along with online casino, in-play online sports betting and betting on credit).

PartyPoker MD Tom Waters expressed regret at leaving Aussie players in a lurch, while offering assurances that the company “will continue to work with the Australian player alliance to lobby the government to provide a safe regulated environment for residents to play online poker in the future.”

Last week saw PartyPoker rival PokerStars announce that it too would exit Australia’s real-money online poker market, although the site has so far failed to cite a specific final day of operation, saying only that Aussie players will be cut off “most likely around mid-September.”

Other poker and casino sites, including the Kindred Group’s 32Red, 888Poker, Betreels and Vera&John, had previously announced plans to exit Australia, while some more intrepid sites have rushed to fill the ensuing void.