Mobile drives stellar online growth for William Hill

Explosive growth of the mobile channel drove an “outstanding” first half online performance for William Hill, with net revenue up 30% and operating profit by 23%.

CEO Ralph Topping told investors gathered in London this morning: “I’m not sure I even need to do a slide on mobile. I think these numbers speak for themselves. The highest-ranked sportsbook app [in the Apple app store], 340,000 downloads, 40,000 new accounts, 28% of sports book turnover was coming from mobile in June, gross win in H1 up 485% off a 398% increase in turnover. And the peak – more bets per minute on the day of the Euros finals than on Grand National Day. Think about that one.”

Net revenue from the online business, in which software provider Playtech has a 29% non-controlling stake, was 30% up in the 26 weeks to 26 June to £198.4m, from £152.7m in the same period last year. Operating profit was 23% higher at £68.9m, from £55.9m, with Playtech’s share of this amounting to £18.7m.

Despite weak 2012 Euro 2012 results, particularly in a “loss-making second week, which featured big wins for favourites and England finishing the group with two wins on the bounce”, according to finance director Neil Cooper, sportsbook net revenue was still up 52% to £80.3m, driven by underlying growth in stakes and a margin improvement from 6.8% to 7.8%.

Gaming net revenue, including Playtech casino and Vegas Casino, was up 18% to £118.1m. Revenue from William Hill’s new live casino offering within its Vegas Casino grew 181% to £10.1m. Online bingo NGR was 7% higher. Poker revenue was down 7%, but with “operating profit ahead of the comparable period despite the net revenue shortfall” said Cooper, due to a “reshaping of this business.”

With the bookmaker’s retail estate also turning in a solid 5% growth in revenue, the online performance helped drive Hill’s to a 11% growth in overall group revenue to £627.8m and a 13% rise in pre-tax group profit to £143.3m.

Topping however gave little away as to the company’s intentions regarding its first call option to buy out Playtech’s 29% stake in William Hill Online, due in the fourth quarter this year.

“I know everyone is looking for certainty on the Playtech call option. I will give you this certainty. There’s no announcement today. How’s it going? Really well. We are having good discussons. Discussion teams are getting on well. Are we happy with Playtech as a supplier? Yes. Will we be keeping them as a supplier. Yes.”

The stellar performance of William Hill Online since Playtech bought into the joint venture in late 2008 has seen the software provider’s 29% stake valued at more than £350m by several investment banks. Playtech spent US$250m (c£144.5m) in late 2008 on acquiring businesses from founder and main shareholder Teddy Sagi (Six-Digits Trading and Uniplay) that it then transferred to William Hill for its share in the online business.

Casino Choice journalist

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