Increased online revenues and dividend push bookmaker’s share prices up, even as profits fall due to string of wins for football teams.
Bookmaker William Hill has reported a big increase in online sports betting in the UK over the past six months, despite feeling the absence of a major international football tournament this year and the wider squeeze on household incomes.
The amount wagered on cricket, football, golf and other sports was up 13% on the same period in 2016.
Average revenue per customer was up 9% and there were also gains from gamblers new to William Hill.
The boost to online revenues and a 4% increase in the dividend helped push the shares up 6%, to 281p, making them the biggest riser in the FTSE 350, even though profit for the six months was down 11% to £109m as the bookmaker had to pay out on a string of wins for well-backed football teams.
“Chelsea won six out of six of their last league matches, Spurs and Arsenal won five out six,” chief executive Philip Bowcock told Reuters, adding that big results towards the end of the reporting period were also customer-friendly.
Eighteen months ago, the shares were changing hands at nearly 400p, but they slid rapidly on worries about the firm’s online strategy. Last summer the chief executive, James Henderson, was ousted, and Bowcock was installed as an interim boss before being installed full-time in March this year, along with a new finance chief.
Attracting gamblers who want to bet on live sports events via tablet or smartphone is now a vital part of business for William Hill and rival Ladbrokes Coral Group, which both retain thousands of betting shops on British high streets.
Among innovations, William Hill – which was founded as a postal and telephone betting service in 1934 – now allows gamblers to ask the company for odds on Twitter. Bowcock plans further big investments in marketing and social media to attract younger punters.
In April, the firm sponsored the Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschkoheavyweight boxing match at Wembley, which attracted more bets than any other event bar the Grand National.
Hill has missed out on industry-wide consolidation which has seen Paddy Power combine with Betfair and Ladbrokes join forces with Gala Coral. The group last year spurned a joint approach from online gambling firm 888 and bingo and casino operator Rank Group.
Source: The Guardian