William Hill beats profits forecasts after friendly sports results


British bookmaker William Hill Plc WMH.L on Monday forecast annual profit ahead of analysts' estimates, powered by favourable sporting results in December, and said it expects its US business to break-even for the year.

William Hill flagged plans to close some 700 betting shops in 2019 after government cutting the maximum stake on FOBTs.

The sports betting and gaming group said calendar year adjusted operating profit from continuing operations is expected to come in at between £143mln and £148mln, though this will be down at least 37% from the £233.6mln a year earlier but well ahead of the £130m average analysts forecast.

William Hill CFO Ruth Prior has resigned to join Elemental Materials Technology in the same role.

Prior's departure date will be determined in due course, with the board beginning its search to identify her successor.

It said the retail arm was boosted by favourable sporting results in December, while the company's gaming division also performed strongly.

United Kingdom online revenues grew in line with the market for the third quarter running, with weaker net gaming revenues offset by the strong sporting result. The global online segment put in a mixed performance, meanwhile, with net revenue expected to be broadly flat on a pro forma basis during the fourth quarter. In contrast to the United Kingdom, gaming revenues were better thanks to a strong performance from Mr Green while sports book revenues were weaker. The company said it now expects to be breakeven for its USA business, compared to the earlier annual guided loss of up to $20 million.

The US business - which investors are pinning their hopes on for future expansion - experienced "strong growth" in the final quarter and is now expected to break even instead of making losses of up to $20m.

Chief executive officer Ulrik Bengtsson said: "The group has delivered a strong operating performance, ahead of our expectations and against a challenging regulatory backdrop". We made good progress on a number of fronts, including our retail business, online and in the United States, enabling us to deliver on our long term strategic ambitions. "We look forward to building on these efforts in 2020 with a strong focus on customer, team and execution".