Wednesday, 21 August, 2019

William Hill profits squeezed by regulations but overseas and digital prospects grow

William Hill reports over USD 1 B wagered in the US and 27% market share in H1 William Hill reports over USD 1 B wagered in the US and 27% market share in H1
Russell Knight | 11 August, 2019, 08:46

Despite the policy change, the company saw revenues edge higher, moving up 1 per cent to £811.7m for the six-month period.

Stripping out exceptional charges, adjusted operating profits were still down 33% to £76.2mln due to the FOBT stake limit and investment in United States expansion, with increased digital compliance measures for the UK's "safer gambling environment" regime another cost.

"In Retail we took the tough decision to announce a consultation process over the proposed closure of around 700 shops to protect the long-term future of the business following the introduction of the £2 stake limit", he continued.

Detailing digital oversight, William Hill announced that its enlarged online business has overcome its period of enhanced customer due diligence measures, "with year-on-year impacts set to come to an end".

Lauding its USA moves, where William Hill now enjoys a presence in eight states, with two more to go live imminently, developments concerning the proposed Caesars Entertainment and Eldorado Resorts merger were also addressed. The company has previously revealed that it hopes to generate nearly 50% of its revenues in the U.S. gambling market, where it has already managed to position itself as a leading sports betting operator by establishing many new sportsbooks.

Philip Bowcock, CEO of William Hill, concluded: "We are making good progress against the five-year strategy we outlined last year, delivering strong revenue growth in the U.S. and other global markets and positioning William Hill well for future growth".

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With US EBITA down 27% against an unusually high margin prior period, Peel's analysts said: "William Hill has an aspiration to double EBITA to £450-490m by 2023 which, in the context of today's results seems a distant prospect".

The group said it was becoming "more diversified", with non-UK markets now contributing a third of all online revenues, up from 24 per cent previous year.

Nevertheless, it said its profits were hit by heavy investment into expanding overseas, which also included the £245m acquisition of Swedish bookmaker Mr Green earlier this year.

We continue to expand rapidly in the USA, both in Nevada and in the new states, with over $1 billion wagered with us in the first half.

A £114.3mln of charge in the period, as management chose to close 700 bookie shops due to the regulatory overhaul, led to losses continuing, though the charges were significantly smaller than those a year ago that led to the £819.6mln loss last time.

"This combination would create the largest gambling company in the US and would provide William Hill US with market access to an additional five states, including California and NY, as well as a further 34 casinos, of which 29 are in states that have passed sports betting legislation".

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