Rank plc announced revenues decline

London-listed land and online gambling group Rank plc revealed in a trading update this week that its revenues declined by 8 percent for the 41 weeks to 12 October compared to the same period last year.

The positive news was that over the past six weeks performance has improved, showing a 5 percent uptick against the same period last year.

Rank was in the news earlier this week when the Malaysian group Guoco announced further purchases of Rank stock, bringing its holding up to 23.17 percent (see previous InfoPowa report).

Difficulties in the Spanish economy had adversely affected operations in Top Rank Espana, the statement revealed, additionally commenting that the online gambling subsidiary Blue Square was still struggling with unsatisfactory sportsbook performance.

Mecca Bingo revenue declined by 12 percent during the reporting period, with admissions down 12 percent and spend per head just level with the comparable period last year. However, in the six weeks since the start of September 2008, like-for-like revenue grew by 2 percent, with an 8 percent rise in spend per head off-setting a 5 percent decline in admissions. Rank has gained licensing permission for 83 adult gaming centres located within Mecca Bingo properties, of which 64 are now operational. This has enabled the group to increase the number of B3 jackpot gaming machines it operates from 406 at the start of the year to more than 660 at present.

The group's Spanish bingo operation Top Rank Espana continued to be affected by the difficult prevailing economic conditions in Spain. In local currency, revenue declined by 4 percent with admissions and spend per head each down by 2 percent. This was offset by the strength of the Euro against Sterling, which resulted in a 6 percent increase in reported revenue.

In Rank's Grosvenor Casinos division, like-for-like revenue declined by 3 percent in the first 41 weeks of the year, with admissions down 14 percent but spend per head up by 10 percent. In Rank's provincial UK land casinos, revenue was 10 percent lower, with admissions down 15 percent and spend per head up 6 percent. In London, revenue was up by 1 percent, with admissions down 9 percent and spend per head up by 12 percent.

The group reported that in the six weeks since the start of September 2008, like-for-like revenue grew by 14 percent, with a 33 percent rise in spend per head off-setting a 14 percent decline in admissions. At the provincial casinos, revenue declined by 1 percent with 19 percent growth in spend per head offsetting a 17 percent decline in admissions.

London casinos grew revenue by 33 percent, largely as a result of average win margin returning to more normal levels, with spend per head up 41 percent and admissions down 6 percent.

On the operational front, Rank said the G Casino in Aberdeen would open this month, the company's first casino in Scotland and the sixth in Great Britain under the G Casino brand. Grosvenor Casino in Moortown, Leeds had been closed following losses since the Government's decision to make a substantial increase to rates of casino gaming duty in last year's Budget.

Blue Square, which carries the main group interactive gambling business, grew revenue by 1 percent during the first 41 weeks of the year. Gaming achieved 7 percent growth in the period, led by a strong performance from meccabingo.com. But revenue from sportsbook activities declined by 11 percent, reflecting the highly competitive nature of the sports betting market.

Rank expects to benefit from a ruling by the UK Duties & VAT Tribunal in May 2008, that it should no longer pay VAT on games of interval bingo. This is expected to result in an annualised cash benefit to the group of around GBP 6 million, with effect from July 2008. The statement cautions, however, that the ruling is being appealed by Revenue and Customs.

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