UK competition authorities clear Rank’s acquisition of Gala Group

The Competition Commission said that it had given the go ahead to UK gaming and betting company Rank Group Plc (LON:RNK) to buy its rival Gala Coral Group Ltd’s unit Gala Casino 1 Limited, owner of 19 casinos and three non-operating licences, for GBP179m (USD275.3m/EUR210.7m).

The clearance follows the regulator’s approval of Global Gaming Ventures Limited (GGV) as the buyer for Rank’s cold licence in Edinburgh, which was one of the conditions set by the CC in its report from February.

Rank agreed in May last year to acquire Gala Casinos, including 23 casinos in the UK and three non-operating licences for GBP205m. The UK Office of Fair Trading later referred the deal to the CC over concerns that it could harm competition. In a move to comply with the regulatory requirements, the buyer, acting via its unit Rank Group Gaming Division Limited, agreed an amended deal in March that excluded four casinos in Aberdeen, Bristol, Cardiff, Stockton-on-Tees and Gibraltar from the original deal. It also had to sell its cold licence in Edinburgh to an upfront buyer approved by the CC or it would also be prohibited from buying the Gala casino in Edinburgh.

The combination is seen to create the UK’s largest casino operator by number of casinos with 54 operating venues and 12 non-operating licences. The deal, to be funded with debt, is also expected to increase the the company’s earnings in the first full financial year, the buyer has said.