March 01, 2009

Hill’s highlights increased online contribution to robust performance

A robust performance across all product lines saw William Hill record group gross win of £1,022.5m and net revenue of £963.7m for the year ended 30 December 2008, 6% up on the comparable period in 2007, with operating profit dipping 1% to £278.6m.

An increased contribution from its expanded online business, following the completion of the transaction with Playtech which established William Hill Online, was credited by the company as helping trading into 2009 remain resilient. Net revenue for the first eight weeks of the year was 9% up on the comparable period a year earlier. On the online side, sportsbook, bingo and skill games performed particularly strongly, boosting net revenue from the online side by 54% compared with the same eight-week period in 2008.

Over the year as a whole, the online business achieved net revenue growth of 13%, operating profit growth of 10% and an 18% increase in active accounts. The company said this reflected the increased focus on the growth opportunities in online gambling, following the appointment of Ralph Topping as chief executive in February 2008, and said it believes William Hill Online is “well placed to capitalise on the significant growth projected to come from online betting and gaming over the next few years."

Hill’s added that the online channel was now its “preferred approach for targeting betting and gaming customers internationally as it is the most cost-effective mechanism for reaching large, geographically diverse customer bases.”

The group’s core retail business, which accounts for 82% of the Group's gross win, delivered a strong trading performance in 2008 in spite of the challenging economic conditions. Compared to the same period in 2007, gross win grew by 7% and operating profit by 7% over the year. The company said it achieved this by continuing to invest in the development of its LBO estate and by stringent cost management measures.

Hill’s also confirmed reports which emerged last week that it was to offer a £350m share issue to restructure its existing £1.2bn debt, due to current credit market conditions making it impossible for the company to refinance its existing bank facilities in full in the bank market.

Topping said he believed the refinancing, combined with a strong focus on cost discipline, capital management and an enhanced online offering, would make William Hill “financially and operationally stronger with a more robust balance sheet as we continue through this difficult economic period.”

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