A quiet quarter for Party Gaming

The London-listed online gambling group Party Gaming has released a trading update that reveals a quiet quarter, but some interesting products and developments in store.

Key performance indicators released this week include:

* Group revenue down 15 percent at $100.4 million (2007: $122.4 million) making $472.9 million for the full year, a 3 percent increase over 2007.

* Currency movements, the relaunch of PartyPoker and increased competition affected revenue in the quarter, but Clean EBITDA margins were better than anticipated.

* It is expected that clean EBITDA for the full year to be at least $143.0 million (2007: $111.7 million), up 28 percent year-on-year and slightly ahead of market expectations.

* Exclusive rights have been obtained for an online slot game using the Frank Sinatra brand and a world leading video game from Capcom Entertainment, Inc.

* B2B strategy on track with CIRSA agreement just announced (see following InfoPowa report)

Commenting on the Group's full year revenue and fourth quarter KPIs, Jim Ryan, Chief Executive Officer, said: "We continue to make solid progress in the execution of our strategy.

"The relaunch of PartyPoker has gone well, as has our new VIP and loyalty programme, with player numbers up 8 percent over the previous quarter.

"Our business to business strategy is also progressing well. In a separate release today we have announced the signing of a three-year exclusive agreement to explore and develop online gaming opportunities in Spanish speaking countries with CIRSA, one of Europe's leading offline leisure and gaming companies.

"Trading conditions have remained tough with an unlevel playing field in poker and the appreciation of the US dollar against other currencies continuing to impact top line performance. However, currency movements had a corresponding benefit on our costs and, consequently, we anticipate clean EBITDA for the full year to be slightly ahead of market expectations.

"Our discussions with the US Department of Justice continue to progress in line with our expectations and the execution of our strategic plan together with tight control over our cost base means we look forward to making further progress to consolidate our position as the world's leading listed online gaming company."

The quarter ended 31 December 2008 was recorded as producing:

* Daily average players 68 900 - down 8 percent on Q4 2007.

* Yield per active player day of $15.80, down 21 percent on Q4 in 2007

* New real money signups over the quarter were 168 000, a 22 percent increase over Q4 2007

*Average daily revenue recorded at $1 090 800, down 15 percent on the corresponding period in 2007

Management reported: "We estimate the impact of foreign exchange movements to have adversely impacted revenues in the fourth quarter by more than $15.0 million.

Continued competitive pressures, particularly in poker, were noted where sites that continue to take bets from US customers are "distorting the market." In addition, a delay in the launch of the Party's new loyalty scheme affected player frequency, these factors contributing to a 14 percent decline in active player days year-on-year.

Whilst yields and player frequency were adversely affected during the period, the number of new player sign-ups increased by 22 percent and the number of unique active players increased by 8 percent versus the previous quarter, reflecting good growth in poker, casino and sports. The volume of new bingo players fell quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year following the reduced programming schedule for Bingo Night Live on ITV1 in the UK.

Party is following up on its successes in converting top movie titles to slot games by securing licenses to develop slots using one of the world's most popular video games from Capcom Entertainment, Inc. and, separately, using the Frank Sinatra brand.

The enduring Sinatra brand remains one of the world's best loved and most recognised entertainment icons. Under the terms of a three-year exclusive agreement with
Frank Sinatra Enterprises, Party expects to launch an exclusive online slot game during the second quarter of 2009 using the Sinatra brand as well as original recordings of his music including "New York, New York" and "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire".

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