Pools giant Littlewoods is understood to be considering buying rival operator Vernons, although it acknowledges in public that its owner Ladbroke has not yet put it up for sale.
Vernons, which has lost almost three quarters of its turnover since the launch of the National Lottery in November 1994, suffered falling profits in the first half of this year – down to 3.2m compared with 3.4m in the same period of the preceding year. Turnover dropped from 45m to 33.2m.
Littlewoods has issued a statement suggesting it has had talks about buying the division, but is waiting for a sign from Ladbroke that it is prepared to part with its pools interests.
When asked if Littlewoods was in talks to buy Vernons, the company said: “Yes, we are talking to Vernons about a variety of industry related matters, but none of these discussions is likely to result in Littlewoods buying Vernons. This is a hypothetical situation which has no firm base because Ladbroke has not said it would like to sell Vernons to us.”
While a spokesman for Vernons parent company Ladbroke Group says Vernons is not for sale, he admits that Ladbroke is “prepared to sell it for the right price”.