Ladbrokes in talks with online firm

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Ladbrokes has made a 240m pounds takeover approach to online gaming company 888, according to a newspaper report

Ladbrokes has made a £240m takeover approach to online gaming company 888, according to a newspaper report.

Ladbrokes, which is being advised by Deutsche Bank Greenhill, has made an offer of 70p a share, substantially more than its 49p share price on Friday, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

Ladbrokes today confirmed it was in “very preliminary discussions” with 888 but refused to discuss details and said there was no certainty an offer would be made.

The newspaper also claimed that other companies including online rival Sportingbet are also in the running to make an offer for 888.

Ladbrokes tried to buy 888 four years ago for £470 million, according to the newspaper, but the deal fell through because of concerns that its target could be prosecuted by the American Department of Justice (DoJ) as part of a crackdown on online gambling.

PartyGaming and Sportingbet have paid 105 million US dollars (£68 million) and 33 dollars million (£21.2 million) respectively to the DoJ to ensure they are not prosecuted, but 888 is not believed to have secured such an agreement.

Ladbrokes’ internet business is seen as one of its problem areas and it has lagged behind William Hill’s since its rival forged an online joint-venture with Playtech, said the newspaper.

888 admitted in recent months it is considering a merger, following in the footsteps of industry peers PartyGaming and Bwin.

Chief executive Gigi Levy said in August: “We look at consolidation as one of the possible routes to realising our full value and feel that longer term this is the direction the industry will take.

“We have always stated that we will look into all relevant deals and expect the recent merger news to accelerate such discussions in the industry.”

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