Ladbrokes stumbles at online growth hurdle as 888 talks fail

Bookmaker Ladbrokes has suffered a blow in its race for online growth after bid talks failed with betting site 888.

Ladbrokes ended the talks after deciding they were “not in the interests of shareholders” because a price could not be agreed. Ladbrokes had reportedly considered spending as much as £240 million to buy 888.

The news comes as Ladbrokes said revenues rose 2.3 percent for the last quarter.

An acquisition by Ladbrokes would have expanded the company’s online presence, an area in which it has been described as “weak” by several analysts and newspaper reporters.

Ladbrokes rival William Hill has already taken aggressive steps online, launching a joint venture earlier this year with Playtech, a developer of casino software.

Ladbrokes’ new chief executive, Richard Glynn, has on several occasions said he would work to improve the company’s presence online.

Paul Leyland, an analyst at Investec Securities, said that “price, regulatory risk and operational fit” problems made it right for Ladbrokes to abandon the 888 talks. However, he added that Ladbrokes' “lacklustre online performance demonstrates the scale of the job”.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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