Ladbroke rules out merger with US partner

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LADBROKE yesterday said it had no plans to merge its hotel interests with Hilton International, its US partner.

"We both looked at this 18 months ago and realised it wouldn't work for a lot of reasons including tax liabilities which outweigh any benefits. We will keep an eye on the situation but it is not on the agenda," said a Ladbroke spokes- man. The British leisure group also denied that the US group would look to force through a merger. "We both agree on this and there is no element of hostility."

Speculation has been rife about a merger between Ladbroke and Hilton International since they signed an agreement jointly to market the Hilton brand around the world last year.

Ladbroke is now looking to expand its hotel chain through acquisitions and is eyeing up new targets around the world after losing out to Bass in the race for Inter-Continental.

The economic turmoil in Asia cost Ladbroke pounds 10m last year, as hotel residents spent less on lavish meals and expensive drinks. The absence of high rollers from Thailand also took its toll on takings at Maxims, the London casino.

Ladbroke announced a 39 per cent rise in underlying profits to pounds 226m. Betting and gaming profits jumped 31 per cent to pounds 111m.

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