William Hill profits beat forecasts despite 700 store closures in 2019

Betting giant William Hill has posted 2019 profits ahead of expectations, despite closing more than 700 betting shops.

The company reported a 52% decline in adjusted pre-tax profits to £96.5 million for the year to December 31.

It said the decline was driven by the Government’s crackdown on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), with the maximum stake decreased from £100 to £2.

William Hill said it shut 713 retail stores in the UK during 2019 on the back of the stake increase, but profits were not as heavily impacted as previously forecast.

Its total revenues across the group dipped 2% to £1.58 billion as it was buoyed by growing markets, such as the US.

US revenue increased by 38% during the year after it launched a new digital platform in the region.

Growth in the region helped to offset UK decline, where net revenue fell 13% on a like-for-like basis, although this was at the higher end of the firm’s expectations.

William Hill said the closure of shops following the FOBT changes resulted in a £67 million hit to profits during the year.

The firm said profits for the current year could be impacted by the Gambling Commission’s latest crackdown, which will see online credit card bets banned from April.

It said the move is expected to impact its 2020 profits by between £5 million and £10 million.

Ulrik Bengtsson, chief executive officer, commented: “2019 was a year of transition during which we executed on our ambition to diversify internationally with the acquisition of Mr Green and the continued strong growth of our US business.

“The Group delivered a strong operating performance, ahead of our expectations and against a challenging regulatory backdrop.

“Our industry is evolving and this brings great opportunities, underlining the importance of our efforts to reposition the business.

“We look forward to building on these foundations with a renewed focus on customer, team and execution.”

Shares in the company have slipped 4.7% lower to 168.3p.

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