February 18, 2010

Nylander hails mobile at Unibet 2009 year-end

Unibet's active mobile users more than doubled during the fourth quarter of 2009, rising 136% to 5,372, from 2,281 in the previous quarter, chief executive Petter Nylander revealed today, hailing the mobile channel for having finally delivered on its promise.

Nylander credited the growing penetration of smart phones for the increase in mobile take-up, and said: “We really saw a breakthrough during the second half of 2009 after we re-launched our iPhone version during Q3 this year. The customers enjoyed it and used it at numbers we can speak about. We think the mobile channel for ourselves and the industry will become a channel with some prominence for the future.”

Unibet’s mobile product is provided by Swedish mobile specialist Mobenga.

Nylander was speaking at the company’s year-end results presentation in Stockholm, where the company revealed an above-historical gross win margin of 11.9% from pre-game betting, combined with strong growth in active customers, which helped the company achieve a 21% year-on-year increase in gross winnings revenue to £42.1m, from £34.9m for the comparable period a year earlier.

The fourth quarter gross win margin of 11.9% from the traditional sportsbook compared to around 6% in the third quarter of 2009, when European-facing sportsbooks including Unibet were hit hard by an unfavourable run of football results, with just four of the first 66 English Premier League matches ending in draws, compared with a five-year season average of 25%.

The Swedish operator’s record quarterly revenue performance helped full-year gross winnings revenue for 2009 reach £138.3m; 12% up on the £123.4m achieved in 2008, despite there being no major sporting events in 2009.

Unibet chief financial officer Henrik Tjarnstrom said: “Sportsbetting margins need to be looked at over at least over a 12-month cycle. That is what we said when we communicated the Q3 results in November, and we reiterate that now.”

The company’s bottom line was also able to benefit from the “competitive tension between several banks” to undertake its November 2009 refinancing of the bond to purchase bingo operator Maria, said Tjarnstrom, with full-year pre-taxprofit growing 161% to £28.9m, from £8.8m in 2008.

Full-year earnings before interest, tax, debt and amortisation (EBITDA) however fell 10% year-on-year to £41.9m, from £46.3m in 2008, which the company said showed the “investment in marketing ahead of the sporting year coming up.”

Nylander said Unibet also hoped to benefit from the opening of the French market during 2010, given the operator’s strong positioning and the relative underdevelopment of the online portion of its gaming market, representing around 5% of the overall sector compared to Scandinavia and the UK, “where we think the online side of the overall gambling market is maybe 25%-30%.”

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