Ladbrokes lose shirts as punters win big on number of Irish horses
A string of favourable results for Irish racegoers during the first half of this year left betting chain Ladbrokes nursing a 3.4pc decline in its gross win in Ireland, the company said yesterday.
The fall in the gross win -- at £39.8m (€45.8m) -- was driven mainly by "tough horse margins" at major festivals, with increased numbers of Irish winners at Cheltenham and Royal Ascot in particular, Ladbrokes noted.
Among the Cheltenham winners was the Willie Mullins-trained Sir des Champs, which is owned by Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud.
The Cheltenham festival in March was the most successful ever for the Irish horse-racing industry, where it secured almost half of the 27 wins.
Ladbrokes -- which is the biggest betting chain in Britain -- also operates 216 shops in the Republic and 78 in Northern Ireland.
The amounts staked by punters over the counter in those outlets rose 5.3pc to £308.1m (€355m) during the first half, while the amount gambled in Northern Ireland on fixed-odds betting terminals rose nearly 32pc to £74.4m (€85.7m).
Operating costs at Ladbrokes' Irish arm rose 1.3pc in the period to £30.7m (€35.3m). The gross win on over-the-counter bets fell 5.1pc to £37m (€42.6m).
Overall, Ladbrokes reported a 5.8pc fall in operating profit to £97.6m (€112.4m) for the first half of the year, with operating profit at its British retail division slipping 2pc to £75.4m (€86.8m).
When its high-rollers business is included, operating profit actually declined 16.8pc to £93.6m (€107.8m). Stripping out the impact of last year's World Cup and a one-off sales tax credit, net revenue climbed 2.8pc in the first six months while operating profit actually rose 16.9pc.
Chief executive Richard Glynn said the company is continuing to look for suitable acquisitions, having pulled out of merger talks with betting group 888 back in April.
"We will continue to look at non-organic things where they deliver shareholder value, accelerate our core capabilities and where we will not take on any unmitigatable regulatory risk," he said.
Mr Glynn also said that the company remains on track to deliver full-year results in line with expectations.
Shares in the company closed down nearly 3.9pc at £1.42, while shares in Paddy Power sank 4.5pc to €32.crowd pleaser: Tom Queally on wonder horse Frankel, trained by Henry Cecil, after winning The St James's Palace Stakes during day one of Royal Ascot on June 14. Alan Crowhurst/ Getty Images