Business World

Sunday 30 April 2017

William Hill sees favourable trading

Holly Williams

Bookmaker William Hill today hailed "excellent" trading after its retail arm performed well in the face of consumer uncertainty.

The group, which employs 16,000 people and has 2,350 betting offices, said retail underlying earnings rose 24pc on net revenues 8pc higher thanks to an increase in over-the-counter betting and from gaming machines.

It continues to see strong demand for its online gambling sites, with revenues in the business up 26pc and underlying earnings 28pc ahead on a year earlier.

Total group earnings lifted 21pc - a result that came despite a poor Cheltenham Festival for bookies last month. Ladbrokes said last week it saw a £10.7m (€12.1m) drop in net revenues from the festival as more favourites came in.

Ralph Topping, chief executive of William Hill, said: "We have seen excellent growth across our business in the first quarter, enabling us to remain confident in our expectations for the full year.

"It is particularly pleasing that, alongside a continuing strong performance from William Hill Online, we have seen growth in both net revenue and operating profit in retail."

Since the first quarter, William Hill said it enjoyed a good Grand National after the favourite failed to win.

Shares opened more than 6pc higher today.

While it was not the group's best Cheltenham, William Hill said it had a number of success over the festival.

It banked over £2m (€2.26m) in profits from two races in one hour.

Sizing Europe's victory over leading contenders Big Zeb and Master Minded in the Champion Chase saw the group rake in more than £1m on that race alone.

William Hill cautioned the current economic climate could impact revenues if lower consumer spending sees a drop in discretionary spend, such as gambling.

But its first quarter figures to March 29 show a resilient performance so far, with over-the-counter amounts wagered up 4pc and still up 1pc even with poor weather factors from the year before stripped out.

The retail performance was helped by a gross win margin at the top end of its expectations due to a strong result in the final five weeks of the quarter.

Shares in the group rose 6pc after the update.

It comes after William Hill recently posted a 7pc rise in annual operating profits to £276.8m (€313m) in the year to December 28 after revenues also lifted 7pc.

The group also last week announced a move into the US gaming market after agreeing to buy two American sports betting businesses for around $39m (€26.6m).

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