The combined business creates Europe’s largest integrated betting and gaming company

European private equity firm, Cinven, today announces that it has backed the acquisition by Gala of Coral Eurobet, the bookmaker and internet gaming operator, for a consideration of £2.18 billion (€3.18 billion). The deal creates Europe’s pre-eminent integrated betting and gaming company with strong market positions in licensed betting offices, bingo and casinos, and a high quality multimedia offer.

The enlarged company has an enterprise value of more than £4 billion (€5.8 billion). It trades from 1,450 outlets, employs a total workforce of 17,000 and has more than 2.2 million active customers.

The deal is backed by Cinven, Candover and Permira, which are the joint and equal private equity owners of Gala. Each is increasing its investment in the enlarged company by up to £275 million (€402 million) to help finance the acquisition. Debt has been provided by Royal Bank of Scotland, Lehman Brothers and Intermediate Capital Group.

Gala chief executive, Neil Goulden, and chairman, John Kelly, will carry on in the same posts in the enlarged company. Vaughn Ashdown and Mick Mariscotti, chief executive and CFO respectively of Coral, have agreed to stay on at the enlarged group and will join the Gala Group board to help facilitate the integration of the two companies.

Following the acquisition, the enlarged group will be the UK’s third largest bookmaker with 1,267 licensed betting offices, the UK's largest bingo operator with 167 clubs and a leading operator of casinos with 30 outlets. Coral Eurobet’s established online business, matched with Gala’s web based products, will also make Gala a significant online gaming operator with strong prospects for further growth.

Commenting on the deal, Peter Catterall, partner of Cinven, said:
“We are delighted to be investing further in Gala and in Coral. Gala and Coral have been two of the most impressive privately owned businesses in the past eight years. Both have a terrific growth track record, have robust cashflows and have delivered consistently strong investment performance. This transaction brings together these strengths to form the UK’s pre-eminent gaming and betting company.

“The gaming and betting industry is likely to undergo considerable change over the next few years and we believe that the enlarged group is now superbly placed to exploit the opportunities which will become available.”

Commenting on the deal, Neil Goulden, Gala chief executive, said:
“Coral Eurobet is an ideal fit with Gala. It is a superbly run company, with strength and depth in management. It fits into our high volume low-ticket strategy and allows us to move into licensed betting offices for the first time. We have a demonstrable track record of successfully integrating businesses, and there are significant revenue enhancing synergy opportunities in combining the two companies.

“This is the perfect time to merge Gala and Coral Eurobet as both companies seek to take maximum advantage of the deregulating gaming market. The merger will add enormous benefit not just to our shareholders but also to our 17,000 employees and 2.2 million customers. Vaughn Ashdown is one of the best operators in the industry and I am looking forward to working with him”.

Vaughn Ashdown, chief executive of Coral Eurobet, said:
“The combination of two of Britain’s top private equity backed businesses has been three years in the planning and I am personally delighted to have achieved the best consolidation opportunity in our industry. It will allow the Coral Eurobet and Gala brands to thrive and grow together. I have the highest regard for Neil and his team, as well as my own management team, and I will help them wherever I can to ensure the new Group’s success.”

Gala was advised by Merrill Lynch and Global Leisure Partners and Coral Eurobet by Lehman Brothers. Merrill Lynch and UBS advised Candover, Cinven and Permira.