Sky betting jv inquiry

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The Independent Online

Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, has referred a proposed joint venture between BSkyB and Ladbrokes to the UK's Competition Commission on the recommendation of the director-general of Fair Trading.

The venture, unveiled in July, would allow viewers of Sky's digital TV channels to place fixed-odds and pools bets. The venture would have taken control of Ladbrokes' Vernons pool business and BSkyB's bookmaker, Surrey Sports, and would have exclusive rights for five years to offer sports betting on various Sky digital sports channels. Viewers were to be able to access the service through the internet and by telephone as well as through their televisions.

Ms Hewitt said the OFT had ruled that the proposal "raises concerns which warrant reference to the Competition Commission". It is due to report by 11 February.

BSkyB and Hilton, Ladbrokes' parent company, said yesterday the "at-home betting" market was highly competitive and they were confident the Commission would approve the venture on closer examination. Hilton shares ended up 3p at 202p while BSkyB stock rose 21p to 703p.