The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said it will release a provisional decision on the Ladbrokes-Gala Coral merger in mid-May.
The provisional decision was originally scheduled to be released on 18 April or soon after. However, City A.M. learned last week that the decision had been pushed back and the previous mid-April deadline was "highly unlikely".
The final decision of the merger, which will create the UK's largest betting company and will be renamed Ladbrokes Coral, remains scheduled for 24 June. A £2.3bn deal was agreed by the bookies last July.
It was unclear why the decision has been pushed back for a month, although an industry source told City A.M. it could relate to branch disposals.
Both Gala Coral and Ladbrokes are thought to have been instructed by the CMA to dispose of between 300 and 500 branches – meaning they must be sold to smaller high-street betting firms, rather than closed – as part of the deal to assuage concerns about competition. City A.M. understands the combined company may have to sell as many as 1,000 high street stores.
"We have seen the CMA’s updated timetable for its inquiry into our proposed merger with Ladbrokes. Importantly the date for the final decision remains unchanged at 24 June and we continue to work closely with the Authority to provide any assistance required," a spokesperson for Gala Coral said.
Ladbrokes said in a trading update today that it is reeling from the "worst Cheltenham ever", although the company posted strong results, with digital net revenue growing by 36.5 per cent.