Merry Christmas, Ladbrokes Coral Group shareholders. Last week, GVC Holdings, the parent company of partypoker, announced that it has come to an agreement to buy UK gaming powerhouse Ladbrokes Coral in a deal that could be worth as much as £4 billion.
“In its relatively short time as a merged entity, Ladbrokes Coral has demonstrated why scale can be so effective in this market,” said John Kelly, Chairman of Ladbrokes Coral said in the announcement. “The management team have delivered a very successful merger that has created a leading betting and gaming business built on strong brands well positioned in key markets. We have a leading multi-channel offer that utilises our retail and on-line businesses and offers us a promising future.”
Notwithstanding that, the Ladbrokes Coral Board believes that the proposed combination with GVC accelerates our strategy to improve the customer experience, drive faster online growth and build a more diverse and extensive international portfolio of businesses.
The Acquisition has compelling strategic rationale allied to an opportunity to use the best of both from proven management teams and will create material shareholder value. It secures earlier delivery of our long-term value potential, which is why the Board of Ladbrokes Coral has unanimously recommended GVC’s offer.
GVC is buying out all of the outstanding shares of Ladbrokes Coral, paying shareholders 32.7p cash for each share owned plus .141 shares of GVC stock for each share of Ladbrokes. Based on the 934p stock price of GVC on December 21st, that is 164.4p per Ladbrokes share. There is also a contingency that could add on another 42.8p per share, brining the price to 207.19p.
The total value of the deal, based on 1.91 billion shares of Ladbrokes stock outstanding, would be £3.958 billion should the contingency be paid.
That contingency hinges on a January decision by the UK Gambling Commission regarding fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), gaming machines found in betting shops around the country. Such machines generated about £800 million in revenue for Ladbrokes last year. FOBT’s currently have a maximum bet of £100; the UKGC is mulling cutting that maximum in half, a decision that would obviously impact Ladbrokes and GVC’s top line going forward. There are gambling opposition groups that would even like to see the maximum bet cut to £2, but one would think something that extreme would be unlikely.
If the UKGC makes no changes, Ladbrokes shareholders will get the added cash.
Before this agreement, GVC saw two attempts to buy Ladbrokes fail in the last year. In December 2016, it was reported that GVC offered a £3.2 billion deal, but it was rejected by the Ladbrokes Board of Directors. Then, this summer, a second round of talks fell apart. That offer was for £2.7 billion, 140p per Ladbrokes share. There was the possibility of another 50p being added on, which would have elevated the value of the deal to more than the current one would be with the contingency cash.