Online Revenues Continue To Grow At William Hill Plc


28th February, 2014 at 05:48:16

Land and digital gambling group plans to save 20 million through cost cutting to accommodate new UK taxes.

The British land and online gambling group William Hill plc released its results for the 52 weeks ended December 31 2013 Friday, noting that it is to cut costs by around 20 million in 2015 to accommodate the new UK point-of-consumption tax on remote gambling activity.

Finance Director Neil Cooper estimates that the new taxes will cost the group between 60 and 70 million pounds sterling a year.

However, he looked on the bright side, commenting:

"While it [the new tax] will lead to a significant additional cost for the group... we do believe there is potential for larger-scale operators to benefit from increased market share as smaller operators may be squeezed out of the market by the additional tax burden."

William Hill reported operating profit of 335 million for the year year, up 3% on 2012, a result in stark contrast to rival Ladbrokes, which earlier this week reported a third year of declining operating profit to 138 million (see previous report).

Other highlights from the William Hill accounts included:

* Net revenue up 18% to 1,486.5 million;

* Retail (land) net revenue up 10% to 907 million;

* Online (digital) net revenue up 12% to GBO 446.3 million;

* Profit before tax down 6% at 257 million;

* Profit after tax down 1% at 226.5 million.

Key operational milestones during the year included:

* Increasing diversification of revenue streams with Online and Australia representing 48% of operating profit and international markets increasing to 15% of net revenue

* Successful completion of the full William Hill Online acquisition in April 2013.

* Greater investment in Online operations, capitalising on the mobile gaming opportunity with 166% growth in mobile gaming net revenue (up 175% over the 52 weeks) and with new products and key user experience enablers introduced

* William and William successfully increasing online market share in Italy and Spain; mobile launched in Italy and successful integration of Miapuesta brand in Spain

* Second home market established in Australia with completion of Sportingbet and Tom acquisitions. Good progress on improvement plan with imminent launch of new website and preparations ongoing to migrate Tom onto William Hill Australia technology platform

* Profitability achieved in US business in first full year of ownership

* Strong net cash inflow from operating activities of 268 million

Group chief executive Ralph Topping, a long-serving employee of the company and its very successful chief executive for the past six years, assured investors that he would remain with the group until the end of 2015, scotching rumours earlier this year that he may depart sooner.

Commenting on the year's results, Topping said:

"In 2014 we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of William Hill. Our focused transformation of the Group over the last five years means William Hill is now one of the world's leading multi-channel betting and gaming businesses, with revenues diversified through the rapid growth of Online and through careful expansion into selected international markets.

This transformation accelerated in the last 12 months with the Group establishing a second home market in Australia through the acquisitions of Sportingbet and, and acquiring the 29% of William Hill Online controlled by Playtech, while maintaining an appropriate capital structure through a well-supported 373 million (net) rights issue and a 375 million corporate bond issue. As a result, our Online and Australia activities accounted for around half our operating profit and international markets contributed 15% of net revenue in 2013.

Online's Sportsbook performance continues to be sparkling, with staking levels up around 400% over the five years since the start of 2009. Mobile Sportsbook represents 39% of Sportsbook wagering in 2013. We put greater focus behind mobile gaming in 2013 and have made good progress in bringing our offer up to match the high standards we've set with our Sportsbook. Our product range is vastly expanded and the customer experience is greatly enhanced, with more improvements to come in 2014. The results reflect this, with mobile gaming net revenue growing by 175% on a 52 week basis.

Topping said that the retail business of the group remained resilient despite the continuing squeeze on punters' discretionary incomes and the rise in online and mobile usage for gambling.

Our international expansion strategy is progressing well with Online's locally licensed offerings in Italy and Spain taking market share, the US business now profitable and Australia established as our second home market, with potential to expand into a more mass market customer base," he said.

Topping expressed the company's support for moves in the land side of the business to restrict the use of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals with the implementation of the new Association of British Bookmakers Code, but he emphasised the importance of making political and operational decisions based on fact and research rather than emotion.

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