Boylesports politics

BoyleSports queries sale of Coral and Ladbrokes shops

BoyleSports, the Irish betting services firm, is to “communicate its concerns” to Britain’s Competition Authority after losing out in the race to land more than 350 betting shops being offloaded to make way for the merger of industry giants Ladbrokes and Gala Coral.

It was announced yesterday that UK bookmakers Betfred and Stan James have reached agreement to buy the 359 Ladbrokes and Coral betting shops for a combined £55.5m (€61m).

The sale of the shops is a key element in the merger of the two businesses, which received regulatory approval in the summer.

Depending on the formal completion of the merger and approval from the Competition and Markets Authority for the shop sale, Betfred will buy 322 shops for £55m and Stan James will spend £500,000 on the remaining 37.

BoyleSports had been one of the bidders, although according to recent reports was not expected to be victorious.

That said, the Irish company, which has an online presence in the UK market and is a former main sponsor of Sunderland Football Club, has attacked the sale decision as being bad for consumers and said it is disappointed.

“The BoyleSports bid was higher than the reported sale price, was fully-funded, was cognisant of the changing political and regulatory UK landscape, and could have been completed within two weeks of acceptance,” the company said.

“BoyleSports believes the decision not to allow a challenger brand onto the UK high street is bad for retail consumers, who would have benefited from the keen pricing and excellent service already available to our existing Irish retail customers and to online customers in Ireland and the UK.”

Boylesports added that it will be “communicating its concerns to the Competition and Markets Authority and is reviewing its options on what other steps may be open to us”.

While yesterday’s announcement has dented BoyleSports’ UK ambitions, it has not quashed them.

Founder and owner John Boyle has previously been quoted as saying the company would like to meaningfully expand in Britain with scale, as opposed to through the opening of a small number of shops.

On that theme, a company spokesperson said yesterday: “We remain interested in developing a retail presence in the UK market should the right opportunity present itself.”

Ladbrokes chief executive Jim Mullen yesterday said the sale of the shops will clear the last significant hurdle to delivering on its merger with Coral and “paves the way for our focus on completion”.

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