GVC hails 'fantastic opportunity' from £3.9bn Ladbrokes Coral takeover
The chief executive of the company in talks to take over Ladbrokes Coral in a deal worth up to £3.9 billion described it as a "fantastic opportunity" on Thursday.
Kenny Alexander of GVC Holdings, who would be chief executive of the enlarged group if a deal goes through, said he was relishing the prospect and that they would be "very, very aggressive" in growing the business and their market share.
The two companies have been linked for some time and final confirmation of the news came on Thursday morning when a statement revealed they were in "detailed discussions" to combine the two businesses.
If a deal is completed, the resulting group would become one of the largest in the gambling industry, propelling them into the FTSE 100 with a market capitalisation of around £5.3 billion, more than Marks and Spencer.
In a conference call on Thursday morning, Alexander said: "I am relishing the opportunity to become CEO of the the enlarged group. I think we have got fantastic people at senior management level on both teams, great technology, great brands and we have got a fantastic opportunity.
"It would be a very, very brave man or woman that would bet against us delivering shareholder returns based on our historical performance.
"I think we have done it before and I think we are definitely going to do it again."
However, it was expected that GVC would wait to see the results of the government's review of FOBT stakes before any confirmation of talks was received.
It was revealed on Thursday that the final price GVC will pay depends on the government's final decision, expected next year following a consultation ending in January.
Should the maximum stake be slashed to £2 from £100 then GVC would pay £3.1 billion for Ladbrokes Coral.
The price would rise with the maximum stake up to £3.9 billion should the government decide on a £50 level, which is thought unlikely.
'Compelling strategic rationale'
Alexander said the board had deliberated for a long time over what their next acquisition would be but that Ladbrokes Coral "ticked all the boxes".
GVC's business has been entirely online thus far but Alexander said an entry into retail betting "was not something that fazes us at all".
He also said there would be no rebranding after the deal, with the separate Ladbrokes and Coral brands continuing.
The statement from the two companies said: "The boards believe that a transaction has the potential to create material shareholder value and that there is a compelling strategic rationale for the possible offer.
"The enlarged group would be an online-led, globally positioned betting and gaming business that would benefit from a multi-brand, multi-channel strategy applied across some of the strongest brands in the sector.
"The enlarged group would be geographically diversified with a large portfolio of businesses across both regulated and developing markets, with the scale and resources to address the dynamics of a rapidly changing global industry."
GVC is required to announce a firm intention to make a bid by end of business on January 4.
Shares in Ladbrokes Coral soared by 29 per cent on the back of the news to 175.1p, while GVC's share price rose five per cent to 954.5p.
Analysts at Davy Stockbrokers said: "The proposed merger of GVC and Ladbrokes Coral makes sense strategically. It diversifies both, it creates an online and retail gaming company of enormous scale and should lead to material synergies."
Merger mania: how the betting industry has been transformed
William Hill and GVC agree joint-takeover bid for Sportingbet, with Hills taking on the Australian and Spanish business and GVC the operations in unregulated markets. The deal is completed the following year.
Sky agrees to sell its controlling stake in Sky Bet to private equity firm CVC Capital in a deal that values the business at £800 million.
In February, takeover talks between William Hill and online operator 888 collapse after one of 888's founders refuses to back the £700m deal.
In June, the Racing Post breaks the news that Ladbrokes and Coral are in merger talks. The £2.3 billion merger is finally completed in November 2016.
Later that summer, Paddy Power and Betfair agree a deal worth more than £6bn. The merger is completed the following February.
In the autumn, GVC beat off competition from 888 to acquire bwin.party.
Elsewhere in the industry, Unibet – now Kindred Group – buy the Stan James online brand.
In Augustm Rank Group and 888 abandon a £3bn takeover bid for William Hill.
In October, William Hill walk away from talks about a £4.6bn merger with gaming group Amaya after shareholder unrest.
In June, Kindred Group complete £175m acquisition of online gaming company 32Red.
In December, GVC and Ladbrokes Coral confirm they are in takeover talks.
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