Ladbrokes wants Sportingbet, Sportingbet wants Centrebet
In a string of online gambling acquisition reports this week, UK online gambling firm Ladbrokes is said to be thinking of buying fellow UK gambling brand Sportingbet. And for its part, Sportingbet is trying to buy Australian-based Centrebet.
In a “highly preliminary” (but still widely commented on) approach, Ladbrokes Plc inquired about purchasing Sportingbet last week. Sportingbet’s shares immediately rose, even though many doubt the deal will actually happen.
Both companies are UK-based, and both are powerful brands in the online betting markets. Ladbrokes was founded in 1886 and is the UK’s largest betting company, but has always struggled with lack of online presence.
That’s why the company is aggressively looking for merger partners, after abandoning takeover talks with 888 — another UK gambling powerhouse — just a few months ago.
The Ladbrokes/Sportingbet mix makes sense to James Hollins, an analyst with Evolution Securities. “We think that a deal makes sound strategic sense for Ladbrokes as it would instantaneously establish a market-leading position in more than 10 global territories, including the key Australian, Spanish and Greek markets,” he said. “Ladbrokes is highly U.K.-centric and does not have the brands to penetrate.”
“There was speculation that Ladbrokes rivals such as William Hill or Bwin.Party could make a counter approach to Sportingbet – though William Hill is thought not to be currently interested,” notes Alistair Osborne at the Telegraph.
For Sportingbet’s part, the company is also after a merger. A potential deal with Unibet recently fell through, but the company is pursuing a deal to purchase Centrebet that looks “likely to proceed,” per the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Sportingbet has offered $2 a share for Centrebet, valuing it at about $183 million,” Michael Evans explains in the article. “[Centrebet’s] major shareholder, the Kafataris family, with 60 per cent, have given the deal their blessing.”
Centrebet is also one of the world’s best-known bookmakers, based in Australia and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Because of the Australian Interactive Gambling Act, the company does most of its online business outside of Australia.
Per Bloomberg, the Australian market is “growing faster than Europe.”