Merger of casino giants held up by OFT as formal deadline passes

CASINO operator Rank Group said yesterday that its takeover of Gala had been held up by competition concerns, with the formal deadline for the deal’s agreement passing at midnight yesterday.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) referred the £205m sale to the Competition Commission last month over fears that the deal, which would create the biggest casino operator in the country, would be anti-competitive.

Rank said yesterday that the merger, agreed by the group’s shareholders on 26 July, was now not binding and the terms of the deal may have to be amended to bring it in line with the regulator’s concerns. Gala’s sale would not require additional shareholder approval even with amendments.

“Rank and Gala Coral Group are continuing to assist the Competition Commission with its inquiry and are continuing their discussions in relation to appropriate amendments to the acquisition terms,” the casino operator said yesterday.

The OFT is concerned that the deal, which would give the combined group ownership of 44 per cent of the UK’s casinos, would reduce competition at a national level and in several local areas.