William Hill sees annual sales fall 16% after ‘year like no other’

PA

Gambling firm William Hill has revealed its betting shop business is set to slump to an annual loss of around £30 million while group sales fell 16%, after a “year like no other”.

The group – which is being bought by US casino giant Caesars Group in a £2.9 billion deal – said the revenue fall comes despite a better end to 2020, with growth of 9% in the fourth quarter to December 29 thanks to an online boost.

But the impact of lockdowns and restrictions on its retail estate and live sport amid the pandemic meant 2020 full-year net revenues fell to £1.3 billion.

Its 1,414 betting shops were hit hard and saw net revenues tumble 30% on a like-for-like basis over the year.

William Hill said the estate had been on course to break even in the third quarter before the coronavirus restrictions saw the estate closed across much of the UK in the final three months of 2020.

The group’s update showed a jump in internet gambling helped offset the betting shop woes, with online UK net revenues rising 5% in 2020 while up 12% across its international operations on a pro-forma basis.

The company also said US full-year net revenue increased 32%, led by strong growth online.

Ulrik Bengtsson, chief executive of William Hill, said 2020 “was a year like no other.

“It tested our agility and flexibility and we delivered, keeping our customers and team safe, whilst materially improving our competitive position through product enhancements and geographical expansion.”

He added: “The offer received for the group recognises the substantial progress we have made as well as the opportunities and challenges ahead of us.”

William Hill agreed to a takeover by Caesars in November and its suitor saw off competition from rival bidder, private equity giant Apollo.

The pair are aiming to secure regulatory approvals needed to complete the deal early in the second quarter, but possible as early as March.

The acquisition values William Hill at 272p per share.

Caesars already owns a 20% stake in William Hill’s US operations, which have exclusive rights to operate sports betting under the Caesars brand.

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