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Bookmaker William Hill says annual profits to exceed forecasts

13th January, 08:27

William Hill, the UK bookmaker, said on Monday that its annual profits would be ahead of expectations thanks to a run of favourable sports results.

The FTSE 250 gambling company, which has struggled due to its exposure to the increasingly regulated UK market, now expects operating profit for 2019 -- adjusted for acquisition costs and other exceptional items -- to be between £143m to £148m. Analyst consensus had previously been £130m.

"The group has delivered a strong operating performance, ahead of our expectations and against a challenging regulatory backdrop," said chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson in a statement.

William Hill added that in the US, where 11 states passed sports betting laws last year, its business now expected to break even in 2019 where it had previously been guiding to an up to $20m loss.

Betting companies have found themselves increasingly limited in mature European markets over the past year as countries, including Italy, Sweden and the UK, have sought to crack down on gambling advertising and betting online.

The UK Gambling Commission, which monitors the industry, is considering banning gambling on credit cards as well as limiting so-called 'VIP' schemes that cultivate relationships between companies and high rolling customers.

William Hill said that despite closing 700 shops in the wake of a 98 per cent cut to the stake in addictive gaming machines known as fixed odds betting terminals last April, its retail business had also generated profits above the expected range of £50m to £70m.

Mr Bengtsson, who took over as chief executive in September, said that the group's restructuring would help it to build on "long term strategic ambitions".

The company also announced that Ruth Prior, its chief financial officer, would be stepping down to join a private equity group.