Belfast Telegraph

Results pain for William Hill

Bookmaker William Hill has revealed a £20 million blow to profits after early season football results went the way of punters.

The chain, which has around 2,400 outlets, also blamed a quiet July for the disappointing third quarter performance, although it said demand picked up in August and September.

With fewer draws in the big football matches, William Hill said sporting results had not been as favourable as the same period a year earlier.

It said operating profits for the quarter to October 1 were down 31% on a year ago, with the figure for the year-to-date down 4%.

The warning comes a week after rival Ladbrokes said profits from digital operations will be more than £10 million short of hopes in the current financial year.

Despite the poor quarter, William Hill said there was still time for it to recoup the shortfall should sporting results turn in its favour.

It is also encouraged by the staking levels and gaming machine performance in its shops in August and September, with football wagers in its retail estate up 27% in the quarter.

Chief executive Ralph Topping said: "It is of course important in our business to look through the impact of short-term results on trading."

This was reflected in the FTSE 100 company's share price, which held firm despite the warning that quarterly profits were around £20 million short of its expectations.

Mr Topping said there was growing momentum in the business, with new products and marketing campaigns helping it gear up for next year's football World Cup.

Numis Securities kept its buy rating on the stock today and said the update reflected the normal "ebb and flow" of bookmaking margins.

Analyst Ivor Jones added: "2014 could be a year of cyclical recovery for William Hill helped along by interest in the World Cup."

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