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Sportingbet - the UK-listed betting site - has confirmed it is holding talks concerning the possible acquisition of Empire Online, the gaming outfit which helps promote gambling sites.

On Friday Empire announced that it had "received an approach from an [unnamed] party interested in merging its business with that of Empire Online" in a deal worth around £790m.

Today, Sportingbet - which runs online casinos, poker and sports betting - broke cover and confirmed it was holding preliminary talks which could lead to a merger.

In a statement Sportingbet "notes recent press speculation" before adding: "These discussions are at a very preliminary stage, and there can be no certainty whatsoever that agreement will be reached and an offer will be forthcoming."

In the six months to the end of June Empire saw its net gaming revenues double from $25m in 2004 to $50m. Pre-tax profits also jumped to $25.5m from $13.6m over the same period.

Last week online gambling outfit 888 announced its intention to float on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). The IPO of the Gibraltar-based business values the operation at around £700m. ®

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