By Kate Holton and Arathy S Nair
LONDON (Reuters) - Bookmaker GVC Holdings has offered to buy Ladbrokes Coral for up to $5.2 billion to create a global online and high street betting giant able to take on rivals and cope with a tougher regulatory environment.
GVC, which boasts 79 million registered accounts and operates in 21 languages through names such as sportingbet and partypoker, previously bought bwin.party in 2016.
The proposed takeover would give it access to the Ladbrokes, Coral and Gala brands and the combined company would compete with William Hill and Paddy Power Betfair.
The two groups said in a joint statement on Thursday they were in detailed talks over a deal that would give Ladbrokes shareholders around 46.5 percent of the combined group.
Shares in the 230-year-old Ladbrokes jumped 26 percent in early trading, while GVC shares rose 6 percent on confirmation of the long-rumoured offer, which is in cash and shares.
The final price will depend on the outcome of a government review into fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). The machines are big moneyspinners for companies like Ladbrokes but they have come under fire for leaving gamblers with very heavy losses.
"The enlarged group would be an online-led globally positioned betting and gaming business that would benefit from a multi-brand, multi-channel strategy applied across some of the strongest brands in the sector," the companies said.
"The enlarged group would be geographically diversified with a large portfolio of businesses across both regulated and developing markets, with the scale and resources to address the dynamics of a rapidly changing global industry."
Isle of Man-based GVC, which has grown rapidly into one of Britain's biggest online gambling companies, and high street-based Ladbrokes held talks about a deal earlier this year but they broke down without agreement.
Analysts and executives had expected the government review to spark a new round of consolidation but they had expected any deal to come after the final conclusion was handed down.
The government has said the maximum stake allowed in FOBTs could be sharply cut over concerns that the terminals fuel addiction. In October it started a 12-week consultation to consider cutting the stake to between 50 pounds and 2 pounds, from the current 100 pound wage.
The offer values Ladbrokes Coral at 160.9 pence per share, equating to a total equity value of around 3.1 billion pounds, plus a contingent fee of up to 42.8 pence a share, depending on the outcome of the government review.
GVC said the deal would enhance earnings per share by a double digit level from the first full year of completion.
Shares in Ladbrokes Coral had closed on Wednesday at 135.7 pence, giving a market capitalisation of 2.61 billion pounds. GVC closed at 909 pence, valuing it at 2.77 billion pounds.
($1 = 0.7478 pounds)
(Reporting by Kate Holton and Arathy Nair; editing by James Davey and Alexander Smith)