Not so good results for Playtech

Online gambling spoftware developer Playtech plc's shares dipped sharply by 20 percent when it released its second quarter numbers this week and revealed it expected full year earnings to be lower than expected. The company said this was partly due to the adverse general economic conditions, but more specifically to a slower than expected start for its online betting joint venture with William Hill plc .

Playtech took a 29 percent stake in the venture last October. Will Hill shares also declined after the giant gambling group admitted the online venture faced an extensive integration period in a difficult trading environment. However, the firm said it was comfortable with market forecasts for William Hill Online.

Playtech took the edge off its results with an announcement that it had entered into a strategic partnership for the provision of Playtech's Casino and Poker product to the Serbian State Lottery, the sole provider of online gaming in that country.

In addition the company has signed a number of significant licence agreements in the first half of 2009, such as with Betfair and NetPlay TV, that will start to deliver additional revenue streams towards the end of the year. With the positive impact of William Hill Online migrating all of its casino activity to Playtech's platform, these will provide new initiatives for growth in the medium term.

Playtech listed it's key performance indicators for Q2 2009 ending June 30th as:

* Strategic partnership with the Serbian State Lottery

* Gross Income for the quarter rose 23.3 percent to Euro 33.1 million, (Q2/08: Euro 26.9 million) 1.9 percent below the Euro 33.8 million achieved Q1/09;

* Gross Income for H1/09 was up 29.8 percent to Euro 66.9 million, (H1/08: Euro 51.6 million);

* Adjusted EBITDA for the group for the six months is expected to be not less than Euro 43 million;

* Net cash at 30 June 2009 of Euro 48.7 million, after payment of a dividend totalling Euro 18.2 million (Q1/09: Euro 53.0 million before payment of dividend);

* Total Group revenues in Q2/09 increased by 0.4 percent to Euro 27.0 million, (Q2/08: Euro 26.9 million) but decreased by 4.2 percent from Euro 28.2 million in Q1/09;

* Casino revenues decreased by 8.1 percent to Euro 17.9 million, (Q2/08: Euro 19.5 million) and decreased by 3.3 percent on the Euro 18.5 million earned in Q1/09;

* Poker revenues increased 17.8 percent to Euro 8.2 million, (Q2/08: Euro 7.0 million) but decreased by 6.4 percent on the Euro 8.8 million earned in Q1/09;

* Total Group revenues in H1/09 were up 7.0 percent to Euro 55.2 million, (H1/08: Euro 51.6 million);

* Share of William Hill Online profit in Q2/09 totalled Euro 6.1 million, an increase of 9.8 percent compared with a contribution of Euro 5.6 million in Q1/09.

Management reported that the underlying performance of Playtech's business continues to be resilient, with the company successfully exploiting a series of new opportunities in the period and delivering adjusted EBITDA up over 27 percent on the first half of 2008. Despite the industry experiencing a slowdown in activity, Playtech's diversified licensee base has allowed the company to deliver gross income 23 percent ahead of Q2 2008 and only slightly below that achieved in the first quarter of 2009.

"The William Hill Online (WHO) business is making encouraging progress after a slower than anticipated start to the year due to a prolonged integration period and difficult trading conditions," the report advises.

"This will impact our expectations for the first year's trading. However, Playtech remains confident that the WHO transaction will prove to be transformational for the company and will make an important contribution to earnings in 2009 and beyond.

"The Board is confident the company will deliver strong growth for the full year to December 2009 compared to 2008.

"However, owing to the slower than anticipated start to WHO and the general challenging economic environment impacting some of our licensees, the Board believes that full year trading will be below current market expectations. Adjusted EBITDA in the first half of 2009 is expected to be in the range of Euro 43 million to Euro 45 million.

In addition to its deals with the Serbian State Lottery, Betfair and Netplay, Playtech singled out its Italian online poker network, which is exceeding management's expectations and is now Italy's third largest poker network by revenues generated by the network licensees, while further positive progress in regulations will bring new opportunities in Italy from this strong base.

The company also noted its agreement with Chillipoker, a strategic partner in the French market, in anticipation of the introduction of new regulations liberalising the French market for on-line gaming.

Management advised that current trading was going well, with a solid pipeline of new licensees and good business prospects ahead in 2009 with operators in soon-to-be-regulated jurisdictions, in addition to various other online gaming operators. Several additional Memoranda of Understanding were signed with operators in the period.

Initial trading in July 2009 continues to be flat over Q2/09. Playtech remains strongly cash-generative: gross income is significantly ahead of last year and the company has maintained its EBITDA margins through careful management of its administrative and other expenses.

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