Favourable sports results in December boost William Hill profits


William Hill said profits for the past year are expected to have surpassed expectations after it was buoyed by favourable sporting results in December.

The gambling giant said this helped to boost its retail division and increase total group profits.

It expects operating profits from continuing operations in 2019 to have been between £143 million and £148 million.

The company said it made “good progress” despite a challenging regulatory backdrop which saw its retail business hit by a heavy reduction in the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

In April, the Government enforced a reduction of the maximum stake of these terminals from £100 to £2, significantly affecting the revenues of high street betting shops.

William Hill said in November that it was “on track” following the closure of 700 high street shops, which it said would mitigate the impact of changes to FOBT rules.

The betting firm said on Monday that its retail business is now expected to post profits ahead of its forecast of between £50 million and £70 million.

It said the retail arm was boosted by favourable sporting results in December, while the company’s gaming division also performed strongly.

UK online revenues grew in line with market expectations over the quarter, while net revenue was broadly flat in its international online business.

William Hill added that its US business continued “strong” growth in the fourth quarter on the back of investment and increased wager size, helping the US arm to break even.

Chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson said: “The group has delivered a strong operating performance, ahead of our expectations and against a challenging regulatory backdrop.

“We made good progress on a number of fronts, including our retail business, online and in the US, enabling us to deliver on our long-term strategic ambitions.

“We look forward to building on these efforts in 2020 with a strong focus on customer, team and execution.”

The trading update came as gambling firms face further scrutiny from regulators, with the Gambling Commission expected to outline plans to ban bookmakers from taking credit card deposits for betting online later this month.