Belfast Telegraph

Bookmaker William Hill takes a hit after 'customer friendly' results

William Hill has taken a £20 million hit to its profits after it was stung by a string of "customer friendly" results in December.

As a result, the high street bookmaker said full-year operating profit for 2016 would come in at around £260 million, the bottom end of its £260 million-280 million range.

The group said unfavourable horseracing and football results impacted its win margins after a December in which a number of favourites came out on top.

Interim boss Philip Bowcock said: "Importantly, the improvements we saw in wagering in online and Australia in the second half have continued in recent weeks.

"However, all four divisions saw customer-friendly results at the back end of the year, which translated into profits being circa £20 million below our prior expectations. With key underlying trends continuing to be positive, the recent run of sporting results have not changed our confidence in a better performance in 2017."

Chelsea's consecutive string of victories in December, only broken by a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham in January, saw punters cash in on bookmakers' woes.

Shares in William Hill were down 2.75% to 289.5p in morning trading.

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "We can forgive a run of poor sporting results. An unbroken run of Chelsea wins in the period covered by today's announcement, for example, won't have been enjoyable for any of the bookies and is clearly beyond William Hill's control."

In October, William Hill and Canadian poker firm Amaya called time on talks over a potential £4.6 billion merger following feedback from shareholders.

Mr Hyett added: "The bigger problem is that while performance in the online division is improving, it's doing so at a snail's pace.

"With the distracting merger talks of last year now behind it, the group seems to be knuckling down to the job of sorting out the core business. Hopefully, the renewed focus and improving trends will start to deliver some results."