UK-listed online gambling operator GVC Holdings has cleared what could be the last hurdle in its bid to acquire rival Ladbrokes Coral Group.
On Wednesday, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that a merger between the two gambling companies “does not give rise to competition concerns.”
“GVC has a small presence in the UK and only offers services online,” the UK competitions watchdog stated on its website. “The CMA has found that GVC and Ladbrokes are not close rivals and there are many other providers of betting and gaming services online.”
During the course of its investigation, the CMA said it looked at both operators’ betting services for individual sports and games. In the end, the agency determined that “there will be enough rivals to the merged entity to prevent price increases or a reduced quality of service as a result of the merger.”
The announcement is good news for GVC, whose previous attempts to acquire Ladbrokes Coral had fallen apart due to concerns over GVC’s exposure to grey- and black-markets, including Turkey. GVC sold its Turkish-facing business in November, before the company announced a renewed takeover bid for Ladbrokes.
Several weeks ago, GVC shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favor (99.75%) of the acquisition going forward. Assuming no regulatory hiccups emerge, the deal is set to take effect on March 28.
Under the deal worth up to £4b, GVC will own an estimated 53.5% of the soon-to-be created global gambling giant, with CEO Kenneth Alexander taking the reins, while Ladbrokes will hold the remaining 46.5% stake. The merger will combine Ladbrokes’ online and high street operations with GVC’s offerings, including Sportingbet and PartyCasino. Ladbrokes, which had merged with Gala Coral in November 2017, has close to 3,700 bookies on the high street, along with over 25,000 staff.
Alexander previously expressed confidence that GVC would be able to pull off the integration of the Lads Coral brands, given its successful takeover of Bwin.party. the GVC executive also noted that there was also valuable experience on the other side of the table, as it wasn’t that long ago that Ladbrokes and Gala Coral Group were separate entities.