A second consecutive year of +20% revenue growth in its online business helped UK bookmaking giant William Hill overcome lacklustre growth in its High Street shops business last year.
Online net revenue from its William Hill Online (WHO) joint venture with leading software supplier Playtech surged 28% year-on-year to £321.3m from £251.5m in 2010, which the company credited to “continued innovations in its sports betting, in-play and mobile”. Online marketing spend topped £85m in 2011, revealed CEO Ralph Topping at the company’s FY results presentation this morning.
The company also noted this morning that online growth had been achieved “despite a short period of business disruption in the fourth quarter”, when the entire Israel-based marketing team walked out following the resignation of ex chief marketing officer Eyal Sanoff and rumours jobs were to be relocated to Gibraltar.
This strong online performance helped offset slower growth in the retail business, which grew just 1% to £789.7m, and boosted overall group net revenue by 6% to £1,136.7m from £1,071.8m the year before.
Group chief executive Ralph Topping (pictured) said: “This is a very positive performance, particularly in a year without a significant international football tournament and with a c£9m increase in VAT payments as a result of the rate change.”
On the online side, in-play betting performed particularly strongly for WHO last year, growing 75% and driving amounts wagered on the sportsbook up by 51%. Revenue from games, including famous brands such as Vegas Casino and William Hill Bingo and poker, was up by 24%.
Operating profit from the online business however fared less well, finishing 17% higher at £106.8m, from £91.1m in 2010, with Playtech’s share amounting to £31.3m (2010: £26.3m). This was due to growing marketing investment and employee costs, said the company, up 31% on the back of initiatives including the successful launch of William Hill Online in the regulated Italian market.