Racing: Tote lose the race for Coral shops

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The Independent Online
THE TOTE'S attempts to become a leading player in the off-course betting market stalled yesterday when it pulled out of negotiations for the purchase of 831 Coral shops.

The future of these betting outlets, originally purchased by Ladbrokes but then put to auction after intervention from the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and Peter Mandelson, is expected to be decided early next week. It is believed either Deutsche Bank or the venture capitalist group Cinven will win the bidding.

"The Tote has tabled a final and fully-financed bid of pounds 375m for Coral," a statement said yesterday. "This bid has been rejected by Ladbrokes. The Tote board has determined that any bid in excess of this level cannot be justified and so has now withdrawn."

Rob Hartnett, for the Tote, added: "It's a disappointment. We have been playing this poker game for the last couple of weeks and we bid up to the top level of what we thought the shops were worth."

Coral, it appears, will now survive and maintain the Big Three, plus the Tote. "It's wonderful news," Simon Clare, their spokesman, said yesterday. "The Coral name will survive and we will continue doing business."

Business, page 20