William Hill profits slump in first half of 2016

The first half of the year has been ‘challenging’ for William Hill

PICTURE: David Dew William Hill profits slump in first half of 2016
By Mark Scully 7:40AM 5 AUG 2016

WILLIAM HILL‘S interim chief executive Philip Bowcock admitted “the first half of 2016 has been challenging” after the bookmaker revealed an operating profit of £131.1 million, down 16 per cent on the same period in 2015.

Following a tough start to the year, that has seen James Henderson relieved of his duties as chief executive in a bid to arrest the firm’s decline following a profits warning, William Hill also revealed its net debt increased to £586.2 million from £488.2 million.

There was some positivity in the results, with retail helping to drive an increase in net revenue of one per cent to £814.4 million.

Bowcock was on Friday determined to focus on the future, in particular the continuing attempts to improve William Hill‘s online fortunes.

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“We remain committed to our strategy of diversifying by expanding digitally and internationally,” he said. “While the first half of 2016 has been challenging, William Hill is a strong business with three of our four core divisions performing well.

“Our retail business is robust, the US operation continues to grow rapidly and the core metrics in Australia are moving in the right direction.

“We have taken considerable steps forward in executing on online’s improvements but there is still a way to go. The refocused team has delivered substantial upgrades to the mobile sportsbook customer experience, which is now back to competitive levels.”

‘Continue the recovery’

Bowcock continued: “Looking ahead, our immediate priorities are to continue the recovery in online, to leverage our technology improvements across the business and to advance a focused approach to international growth.

“Trading is in line with our full-year expectations and we have a strong team in place to deliver on the opportunities before us and to improve the business for the long term.

“In addition, we see opportunities to benefit from increased efficiencies in certain areas of the business.”

No new merger information

While Friday’s report draws attention to William Hill‘s recent investment in technology, including its £13.6 million acquisition of Grand Parade, no mention is made of a potential bid for the firm from 888 Holdings and Rank Group.

Last month, William Hill confirmed they have received a “highly preliminary” approach, with a statement saying the bookmaker’s board is open to any proposal from that consortium.

William Hill‘s share price was not adversely unaffected by Friday morning’s announcement, rising by 0.4 per cent to 313.70.
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