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European betting groups issue flurry of profit warnings
16th March, 20:58Gambling groups Flutter Entertainment, GVC and William Hill all issued profit warnings on Monday, as the widespread cancellation of sporting events ground betting to a halt.
Flutter, the bookmaker behind Paddy Power and Betfair, said that postponed or cancelled fixtures would "obviously" affect revenue and earnings.
The group, which made about four-fifths of its £2.1bn revenues last year through sports betting, said it expected the Euro 2020 football tournament to be cancelled and the movement of people to remain restricted until August.
Although the FTSE 100 company did not say by how much betting had dropped since the health crisis began, it warned that earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation would take a hit of between £90m and £110m.
The news sent its shares down by as much as 16 per cent while rivals GVC and William Hill fell 20 per cent and 25 per cent respectively, prompting them to also issue statements to the market.
Ulrik Bengtsson, chief executive of William Hill, said the industry was facing "truly unprecedented times" and that the group would suspend dividends "until further notice".
The 86-year-old company, which in 2019 derived over half of its £1.6bn in revenues from sports betting, said it was "too soon to accurately determine the effect of Covid-19".
However it said in a possible scenario, encompassing elements such as UK store closures lasting a month and the cancellation of the Grand National and Royal Ascot, it would expect ebitda to drop by up to £110m this year.
William Hill more than doubled its net debt last year to £536m, after it bought online gambling group Mr Green and expanded aggressively in the US. The company said it had a credit facility of £425m and was "working closely with our banking partners to enhance our liquidity position".
However the group's debt and exposure to high street betting shops makes it the most vulnerable of the listed betting companies, according to Warwick Bartlett, chief executive at research firm Global Betting and Gaming Consultants.
"The government will not intervene to save the gambling groups," he said, adding that the industry was already under pressure due to regulatory clampdowns and decreasing footfall on high streets.
GVC, the group behind Ladbrokes Coral, warned that postponed or cancelled sports events would hit its ebitda by up to £150m. Sports betting made up roughly half the company's £3.7bn in net gambling revenues last year but chief executive Kenneth Alexander said GVC was in a "robust position to manage the impact on our operations".
Charles Gillespie, chief executive of private group Gambling.com, said he expected only "residual" betting relating to politics and reality TV programmes over the next six months. "Betting on actual sports has all but vanished," he said, adding that the sector accounted for about a quarter of Gambling.com's revenues.