Business World

Wednesday 29 March 2017

William Hill posts first quarter profit fall

Britain's biggest bookmaker William Hill posted a 19 percent fall in first quarter operating profit on Thursday due to 20 million pounds ($30 million) worth of additional tax charges and the impact of its worst ever sports betting week.

The company, which has around 2,300 UK shops and operations online, in Australia, the U.S. and Europe, said operating profit fell by 16 million pounds in the 13 weeks to March 31 as it felt the effect of new levies such as a UK tax on profits from bets made online by its British-based customers.

The industry is under increasing pressure from rising taxes as well as regulation, forcing many firms to close some shops and put greater focus and resource on growing online sales.

William Hill said group net revenue grew by just 1 percent in the quarter as its sports betting arm suffered its largest ever loss making week in January - 14 million pounds - after a series of customer friendly results. Online revenue growth of 9 percent was wiped out by higher costs and taxes.

The group, which posted record annual profits in February, said wagering and gaming trends had improved since January.

Shares in the firm, which saw a 720 million pound takeover of rival 888 collapse earlier this year, closed at 372 pence on Wednesday, up 12 percent on a year ago.

On Wednesday rival Ladbrokes posted a worse than expected fall in first quarter operating profit to 14.3 million pounds due to the unfavourable sports results and higher taxes.

Ladbrokes' performance has trailed William Hill and others and the firm is under pressure to improve its offering in the fast growing online space. Its new chief executive Jim Mullen, promoted from head of digital last month, has promised to unveil his strategy for the business in June, earlier than planned.

Reuters

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