It's not often in these troubled economic times that you read about major dividends being paid by online gambling companies, but this week that dream has come true for investors in Swedish online gambling firm Betsson. The company announced that it is to pay a record dividend of SEK 9 a share - an increase of 76 percent on last year's distribution.
Betsson management made the announcement as the company posted its full year 2009 numbers that recorded a 15 percent increase in operating income, and revenues up by 25 percent.
Chief executive officer Pontus Lindwall told business journalists that operating income soared to SEK 316.9 million (2008: SEK 276.6 million) whilst revenues were up from SEK 1037 million in 2008 to SEK 1299 million in FY 2009.
Giving the industry in general a boost, Lindwall said that his company's results "....prove that this industry is resilient to the economic downturn, and that can conclude that this kind of company has a very strong position, even in a bad financial climate.”
Income before tax increased by 14 percent to SEK 318.9 million (2008: SEK 280.7 million), and gross profit on sportsbetting operations rose 33 percent; online casino was up by 28 percent and other products by a similar percentage. Online poker had, however, underperformed, he admitted.
“Poker has been not as successful for the last two years,” Lindwall said. “We have been losing market share because although we still believe that we have a great product, on the other hand there have been changes in other networks that have changed the price scene and we have had some problems being able to compete with that.”
However, Lindwall said that the issue was being addressed and that the company would change the situation going forward, although he was reluctant to make any predictions for 2010.
Lindwall responded to questions on the controversial plans by the Norwegian government to restrict online gambling payments in order to protect its own state run monopoly, saying that these moves did not concern him. It was still not clear where and how such restrictions would be implemented, he said, and there would always be alternative methods of payment. He added that his company expects to generate significant b2b growth in this market, too and expects to announce new deals ahead of the World Cup football in South Africa later this year.
Nordic nations remain Betsson's main market, Lindwall revealed, saying that these countries contributed more than 50 percent of total revenues in 2009, with just 37 percent from wider European operations and a mere 13 percent from other regions.
Expanding on the entry of Betsson into the b2b sector with its Betsson Business Solutions, Lindwall commented that this was a business area with good potential; there were many new companies entering the industry and in need of expert services, and there had already been interesting approaches to BBS.
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