First half trading update from William Hill Group

Good contribution from online activities, and profits for Playtech

The UK land and online gambling group William Hill plc has issued a trading update covering the first half of 2010 up to June 29th.

Management reports that William Hill Online has been an important contributor to the continuation of positive net revenue trends for the Group as a whole in Q2 2010, showing strong growth.

For the year to date, Group net revenue was up circa 3 percent compared with the same period in 2009 and pre-exceptional earnings before interest, tax and amortisation for the first half of 2010 are expected to be around GBP135 million (H1 2009: GBP 134.6 million).

William Hill Online performed strongly in the half, with total online net revenue growth of approximately 24 percent and operating profit approximately 43 percent higher than in the prior year. This was underpinned by a strong Sportsbook performance. Helped by the doubling of in-play betting, Sportsbook turnover was up 59 percent year over year.

In addition to outstanding top-line growth, gross win margin on the Sportsbook was 7.7 percent, up from 6.8 percent in the first half of 2009. This resulted in a minority interest for Playtech of GBP6.3 million in the second quarter and GBP12.9 million in the year to date.

The statement notes that, as announced in May, William Hill Online has ceased accepting online business from clients resident in France (see previous InfoPowa report).

Over-the-counter Retail has seen a very strong World Cup performance in June but poor horseracing results in the second quarter as a whole, with a relatively weak Grand National in April followed by a loss-making Royal Ascot festival.

Machines continued to perform strongly, benefitting from the roll-out of the 'Storm' machines across the Retail estate, which commenced in August 2009 and was completed in March 2010. Retail turnover was up circa 7 percent, net revenue fell by crica 1 percent and operating profit fell circa 8 percent. For the half, the OTC gross win margin remained in line with the Group's expected trading range of between 17 percent and 18 percent.

The adverse horseracing results led to a 33 percent decline in Telephone net revenue and a small operating loss is anticipated. The Board has previously noted the challenge of competing with UK betting exchanges and Irish offshore telebetting operators, all of whom have benefitted from significant tax and cost advantages over UK bookmakers. The situation is under active review.

Chief executive Ralph Topping commented: "Whilst it was our worst ever Royal Ascot, with a loss on the meeting, the World Cup proved to be one of the best for bookmakers in 40 years. Overall, we have seen a good Group performance in the period, with a particularly strong contribution from William Hill Online."

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