The poor run of luck on acquisitions endured by Richard Glynn since he became chief executive of Ladbrokes almost three years ago might be about to change.
Having spent much of his first 18 months in the job in abortive talks to buy the bookmaker’s internet rivals 888 Holdings and Sportingbet, he is understood to be weeks away from agreeing an estimated £30 million deal to swallow Betdaq, the betting exchange controlled by Dermot Desmond.
The two companies already have a commercial relationship, under which Ladbrokes uses the betting exchange to hedge the bets it takes in its shops and over the internet. Betdaq is also said to provide its partner with market information on online trading.
Talks over an outright takeover are believed to have started almost a year ago but there had been rumours that a deal had fallen apart. One suggestion was that the two sides were divided over the inclusion of Betdaq’s “white label” business, which runs exchange operations for smaller bookmakers.
However, analysts said last night that most of the big issues appeared to have been resolved and that the finishing line could be in sight. One said: “Word is we could see a deal at the end of this month or early next.”
Mr Glynn, a former chairman of Sporting Index, will be keen to conclude a deal with Betdaq after spending months in ultimately unsuccessful talks to acquire 888, then Sportingbet. To make things worse, William Hill pounced on Sportingbet and is close to completing a deal to acquire its lucrative Australian and Spanish operations.
Betdaq would be a much smaller transaction, but having a person-toperson betting exchange could help Ladbrokes to make more from its existing fixed-odds customers, many of whom already use Betdaq or Betfair, which has just launched its own fixed-odds website.
One racing industry insider said: “Betdaq is not going to transform Ladbrokes’ fortunes, but it would provide a useful extra service to existing punters. There could also be an opportunity to roll out Betdaq into some international markets.”
Global Betting Exchange, which trades as Betdaq, was set up by Mr Desmond 13 years ago in Dublin as a rival to Betfair, although it remains a minnow by comparison and is understood to be loss-making. It claims to offer odds up to 20 per cent better than a traditional bookmaker.
A deal over Betdaq would be given added piquancy because Mr Desmond is also one of Ladbrokes’ biggest individual shareholders, with a stake estimated at between 2 per cent and 3 per cent.
Although Mr Glynn has overseen a revival in the bookmaker’s high street betting shops, his failure to snare either 888 or Sportingbet has left Ladbrokes trailing in the digital stakes behind William Hill, Bet365 and Paddy Power.Since the collapse of the Sportingbet talks in 2011, Ladbrokes has focused on developing an effective digital platform of its own, although the £50 million project has been hit by delays.