Belfast Telegraph

Bookies Sportingbet in talks with Unibet rival

Online bookmaker Sportingbet has confirmed talks with "different parties" following reports that the group is considering merging with Swedish rival Unibet.

The companies are understood to have held preliminary discussions about combining to create a £600m group, with further talks expected in coming weeks.

Sportingbet said in response to the weekend press speculation that it "has had and will continue to have discussions with different parties in relation to a variety of potential opportunities", although it did not refer to Unibet specifically.

Shares in Sportingbet climbed 5% following the statement.

But any announcement on the merger is reportedly not expected until next year, with more talks said to be needed before a deal can be sealed.

In September, Sportingbet agreed a £22.8m settlement with the US Department of Justice over an investigation into alleged illegal internet gambling, which analysts claimed cleared the way for potential mergers or takeovers.

The agreement meant the firm will avoid being prosecuted in the US for accepting online bets made by Americans between 1998 and 2006.

Online gambling is illegal in America.

The most recent big merger in this market was between Party Gaming and Bwin in the summer.

Sportingbet last month reported that increased popularity of betting on live sporting events drove revenues 27% higher in its most recent financial year.