Sunday 17. April, 2016

UK Watchdog Delays Provisional Ruling on Coral-Ladbrokes Merger

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is delaying the provisional ruling on the proposed merger between gaming operators, Gala Coral and Ladbrokes. The delays are due to issues with the number of retail betting shops the operators will be forced to dispose of due to the merger.

The watchdog was supposed to make an initial ruling by April 18, with its final ruling due by June 24. However, it now looks like Monday’s deadline will be delayed. The CMA is concerned with the sale of retail betting shops as the number of shops disposed of will directly impact competition concerns that the watchdog has regarding the merger.

Gala Coral and Ladbrokes had initially been expected to dispose of between 300 and 500 shops; however, it now looks possible that the number will increase to 1,000 out of the total of 4,000 shops they own. The CMA is expected to insist that the companies sell off their branches to smaller competitors and will likely specify the branches that must be sold.

A final decision is still expected by June 24 for the £2.3 billion merger deal which was first agreed to last July.

This merger comes close behind the Paddy Power Betfair deal which was announced last September and was finalised in February this year. Paddy Power Betfair became the world’s biggest listed online gambling company following their merger.

With its 4,000 betting shops, Ladbrokes Coral would overtake operator William Hill which has slightly fewer than 2,400 retail shops across the UK. The requirement of CMA for Ladbrokes Coral to sell their shops to smaller operators, rather than close them will maintain much of the competition that is threatened with the merger.

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