William Hill reports profit jump; CEO sees U.S. opportunities

William Hill PLC on Friday reported a jump in first-quarter profits, thanks to the success of its online and retail divisions and a small profit from its U.S. operations in Nevada and Delaware.

Overall, the company posted an 8 percent increase in profits, according to the company’s first-quarter interim management statement. The company did not release dollar figures with its interim statement.

The British bookmaker said its U.S. profit was based on “gross win margin returning to more normalized levels at 7.9 percent.”

Its online division, William Hill Online, reported a
21 percent increase in net revenue and an operating profit of $65.9 million.

“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” Ralph Topping, CEO of William Hill, told analysts during a conference call Friday. “The transformation of William Hill continues with online operations contributing
45 percent of profits, including two weeks of Sportingbet.”

William Hill and GVC Holdings PLC recently completed its $853.9 million acquisition of Sportingbet and its operations in Australia and Spain.

Topping said a strong digital business needs a strong retail business. The company operates more than 2,300 betting shops in the United Kingdom.

Shares of William Hill gained 29 cents, 4.78 percent, to close at $19.02 on extremely heavy volume of 13.14 million shares traded on the London Stock Exchange. The company’s average daily trading volume has been 4.06 million shares over the past three months.

William Hill did not release revenue figures for its U.S. operations. Based in Las Vegas, William Hill U.S. operates 182 sports books and kiosks in Nevada, with sports betting apps for smartphones.

The bookmaker is also the risk manager for the Delaware Lottery’s wagers on National Football League games using parlay cards. William Hill Online has filed a license application in Nevada.

“We are pleased with the performance in Nevada in the first quarter,” especially with most of our business taking place during the NFL season, Topping said. “We are going through a quiet time at the moment.”

Topping said the London-based company is developing its U.S. business.

“There is a lot going on,” Topping told analysts. “Unfortunately, we can’t say at this precise time that this is what’s happening or this is what is going to happen. We’ve got licenses in Nevada, and we’ll apply for licenses elsewhere when the opportunity cries out.”

Topping predicted William Hill would have significant business in the United States in five years.

“But it’s getting the right opportunities or identifying the right opportunities, and they may not always be the obvious one,” Topping said. “That’s all I will say.”

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.

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