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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Ladbrokes Coral shares soar after GVC paves way for deal

GVC Holdings chief executive Kenny Alexander
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Ladbrokes Coral shares rose sharply on Thursday following news that online gambling company GVC Holdings had sold its Turkish business in a deal which could pave the way for a takeover of the bookmakers.

Both Ladbrokes Coral and William Hill have been linked to GVC, owners of the and Sportingbet brands, in recent months.

At one stage Ladbrokes Coral shares were up nearly six per cent before closing at 134.1p, a rise of 5.5 per cent, while GVC shares fell 15p to 932p.

GVC's Headlong is being sold for €150 million to Ropso Malta Limited, a company which provides IT services to the Turkish business.

In a statement on Thursday GVC said the decision to sell Headlong had been made because the board had "concluded it is now appropriate for GVC to further increase its focus on regulated markets".

Chief executive Kenny Alexander added: "As the group evolves, our focus is increasingly on regulated markets and markets where we believe there is a realistic path to regulation.

"Today’s disposal is consistent with this strategy and enhances GVC’s position as a leading operator in a rapidly developing industry."

It was reported during the summer that GVC had had a second bid for Ladbrokes Coral turned down, while GVC had also been linked to a deal with William Hill last year.

Concerns over the regulatory status of GVC's Turkish business had been cited as contributing to the deals failing to come to fruition.

However, Alexander has also said he would wait until there was clarity from the government's review of gambling before he entered the world of retail betting.

Simon French, analyst at stockbroker Cenkos Securities, said the sale of Headlong was "a compelling strategic move resulting in a more regulated and attractive business, even better positioned to participate in sector mergers and acquisitions".

Meanwhile, former Gala Coral chief executive Carl Leaver has stepped down as a director of Ladbrokes Coral following the completion of his fixed one-year appointment.

The bookmaker's chairman John Kelly said: "Over a period of six years Carl led a major turnaround of the Gala Coral group, culminating in the deal to merge with Ladbrokes to create Ladbrokes Coral Group plc.

"I would personally like to thank Carl for agreeing to join the newly merged company for a fixed one-year term to drive the integration of the two businesses.

"Working with the management team, his leadership has been critical to the delivery of synergies well over double the original target. He leaves a business well positioned for the future and we wish him well."

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As the group evolves, our focus is increasingly on regulated markets and markets where we believe there is a realistic path to regulation
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