Bookie scores £15m World Cup bonanza
Bookmaker Paddy Power reported a sharp hike in profits as it revealed it made £15m from losing punters at this summer's World Cup.
The tournament in South Africa contributed to a favourable six months of sporting results for the Irish firm, which enjoyed a 54% rise in half-year profits to €52.5m (£43m) in the six months to June 30.
It also revealed a six-fold increase in profits from its UK betting shop estate after it opened 27 new shops in the period.
The bookmaker has 319 shops across the UK and the Republic.
Paddy Power, which has eight shops in Northern Ireland, is keen to expand its operations in the province. A spokesman said: "We are looking to expand but opportunities do not come up that often in the north."
Profits last year were hammered by unfavourable horse racing results and a clean sweep by Irish teams of rugby's Grand Slam, Heineken Cup and Magners League titles.
Chief executive Patrick Kennedy said profits for the current year were now expected to exceed current market forecasts, helped by the company's growing online presence.
He added: "As ever, our financial performance is subject to the glorious unpredictability of sport.
"Overall though, we finished up a little ahead of our normal expectations and certainly a good deal better than where we were last year."
Paddy Power customers bet €86m (£70.5m) on the World Cup, generating a gross win for the company of €18m (£14.7m) - a four-fold increase on Euro 2008 and the previous World Cup.
Spain's victory generated a profitable return for bookmakers after the European champions' opening defeat to Switzerland deterred some would-be backers, and bookies also benefited from patriotic bets on a poor England team.
Around 43% of the group's operating profit is generated from UK customers, with 39% from Irish customers and 16% from punters in Australia.