Ladbrokes and Coral to sell 400 shops?
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) say that Ladbrokes and Gala Coral might have to sell (up to) 400 betting shops if their merger is going to be given the green light.
The competition watchdog says that the provisional findings of their probe into the £2.3 billion merger shows "concerns in a large number of local areas".
Between them, the bookies have 4,004 stores in the UK, and the CMA say that they have "identified 659 local areas where it provisionally found that the merger may be expected to result in a substantial loss of competition."
That "could lead to a worsening of the offer made to customers at both a local and national level".
Martin Cave, chair of the CMA's inquiry, says: "We've provisionally found that the merger between two of the largest bookmakers in the country may be expected to reduce competition and choice for customers in a large number of local areas."
"Although online betting has grown substantially in recent years, the evidence we've seen confirms that a large number of customers still choose to bet in shops - and many would continue to do so after the merger."
"For these customers, competition comes from the choice of shops in their local area and it's they who could lose out from any reduction of competition and choice."
"Discounts and offers of free bets to individual customers are ways betting shops respond to local competition which could be threatened by the merger."
"We're also concerned that such a widespread potential reduction in competition at the local level could worsen those elements that are set nationally such as odds and betting limits."
Ladbrokes are quite happy at this news, and said: "We believe this represents a significant step in the merger process."
"Our focus now will continue to be to work with the CMA to progress the merger to focus on finding a suitable buyer or buyers in order to deliver the necessary remedies".