US firm DraftKings abandons takeover bid for Ladbrokes owner Entain

Fantasy sports and gambling firm had made indicative offer of £16.2bn in September but decided not to proceed

Last modified on Tue 26 Oct 2021 10.42 EDT

A $22.4bn (£16.2bn) takeover of Entain, the owner of Ladbrokes, by the US fantasy sports and gambling company DraftKings will not go ahead, after the prospective buyer’s interest in a deal cooled.

In a statement to the stock market, Entain said DraftKings had decided not to make a firm offer, more than a month after first declaring its interest in a takeover. City takeover rules mean that the American firm is not permitted to return with a new offer for another six months.

DraftKings was the second US gambling company within a year to express an interest in buying Entain.

The board of Entain, which owns brands including Coral, Ladbrokes and Bwin, knocked back an £8bn offer from US joint venture partner MGM Resorts in January.

DraftKings’ indicative bid had put a price tag of twice that much on Entain, but the sports betting and casino firm saw its stock market value decline by 7% to £11.6bn on Tuesday afternoon.

While investors sold shares after the bid interest evaporated, Entain pointed to its “outstanding track record of growth”, including 23 consecutive quarters of increasing income from punters betting with the Isle of Man-based firm’s brands.

Analysts at the stockbroker Jefferies said negative investor sentiment towards Entain was likely to be “relatively short-lived”, pointing to its trading momentum and potential for growth in the US via the MGM partnership.

Since the US supreme court legalised sports betting in 2018, a flurry of British firms have established operations in the US, exploiting expertise garnered from years of operating freely in the UK, where equivalent laws were formalised in 2007.

US state laws have required them to do so in partnership with local casino operators that typically hold the limited number of sports wagering licences to be awarded.

Increasingly, US firms have been looking to buy out their British partners, with bid interest in Entain preceded by the £2.9bn takeover of William Hill by Las Vegas casino firm Caesars Entertainment.

Caesars had little interest in William Hill’s UK operation, including its network of about 1,400 UK bookmakers. The London-listed online casino firm 888 Holdings agreed to pay Caesars £2.2bn for William Hill’s UK business earlier this year.

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