Belfast Telegraph

Ladbrokes Coral on track for profit hike despite 'savage' December

Betting giant Ladbrokes Coral has defied the "sporting gods" to remain on track for a hike in profits despite a "savage" December for horseracing and football results.

The group - created from the £2.3 billion merger of Ladbrokes and Gala Coral in October - saw surging online revenues help it overcome a tough end to 2016 for sporting results, when a number of favourites came out on top.

Ladbrokes said it suffered its worst week of the year for football last month, with nine of the 11 domestic favourites winning over two days and all four of the top Premier League teams winning on Boxing Day.

In horseracing, the two feature races at Kempton Park on Boxing Day were won by the favourites, with further wins by favourites in Ireland and Wales.

Rival William Hill last week revealed a £20 million hit to its profits after it was hit by the harsh December.

Ladbrokes said: "December will ultimately be remembered for a savage end to the year thanks to the major Christmas race meetings and a bleak set of football results around the holiday period.

"Whilst not quite as bad as 2014 it was a very disappointing end to the calendar year."

Chief executive Jim Mullen cheered "an encouraging start to the life of Ladbrokes Coral Group" as its 2016 profits remain on track.

" While the sporting gods did not look favourably on us in the period, it is pleasing to report that the business continued to perform well," he said.

Shares rose 3% as the group said it was on course for full-year operating profits of between £275 million and £285 million for the combined group.

Proforma 2015 earnings for the two groups would have been around £235 million, according to Ladbrokes Coral.

Ladbrokes saw digital net revenues leap 18% in the final three months of the year, offsetting a poor performance from its high street shops, which suffered a 4% fall in net revenues.

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

Ladbrokes added that its football troubles were compounded as only six of the 58 Premier League football fixtures finished in a draw - less than half the number of bookie-friendly outcomes normally expected.

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