Internet gambling firm 888 Holdings has said takeover talks with Ladbrokes are still ongoing as it bolsters its negotiating position with strong final-quarter sales.
The company, which offers casino, poker and sport betting, said an announcement regarding a potential deal with Ladbrokes would be made when appropriate – following reports that discussions had hit difficulties over the tabled price.
888, which recently launched an advertising campaign with former Australian international cricketer Shane Warne, posted an 18% increase in operating income to 71 million US dollars (£44 million) in the final quarter of 2010.
Bookmaker Ladbrokes revealed it was in talks to buy 888 in December, following reports it had offered £240 million for the company.
A Mail on Sunday report claimed the potential deal hit a stumbling block after 888 rejected the bid and Ladbrokes was unwilling to move any higher.
But after 888 revealed the talks were still ongoing shares edged ahead nearly 2% to 44.5p, valuing the company at £153.7 million.
The company’s share price has lost 58% of its value in the last year, as demand for online poker decreased and hit revenues and profits.
Chief executive Gigi Levy said: “We are very pleased with the results delivered during the last quarter of 2010 – especially the record 18% quarterly sequential growth. Our marketing activities have driven record numbers of players to our sites, and growth was achieved across our business lines.”
The group said its strong fourth-quarter trading continued into 2011 with average daily revenues increasing by 3% in January. Casino revenues were up 17%, while bingo and poker were up 13% and 28% respectively.
Ivor Jones, analyst at brokers Numis Securities, said: “888’s long-suffering shareholders must have been hoping that Ladbrokes would gallop quickly to the rescue. However, a good final quarter to 2010 is positive news for shareholders and gives 888 a better negotiating position.”