Ladbroke rivals fight bid

RIVALS of Ladbroke have launched an attack on the leisure group's bid to buy the Coral betting chain in an attempt to persuade the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to block the deal.

William Hill, the betting chain owned by Nomura and an arch competitor of Ladbroke, is understood to have lobbied the MMC hard to force the combined group to dispose of betting shops or rule out the merger entirely.

Ladbroke presented its own case for the acquisition of Coral to the MMC yesterday. It is believed to have claimed that it will not have a monopoly in the betting industry because the market is a local one and it has already disposed of outlets within a quarter of a mile of each other.

But other betting groups maintain that the deal will create a dominant force in the off-course betting industry with a market share of more than 39 per cent.

Analysts believe that Ladbroke is likely to have to make more disposals to get the green light for the deal.