William Hill sees profits surge as UK gambles more


Dormant account
Dec 12, 2000
William Hill sees profits surge as UK gambles more


WILLIAM Hill, Britains second largest bookmaker, has seen a big jump in annual profits just a week after rival Ladbrokes announced a 43 per cent surge.

William Hill, which runs about 1,600 betting shops around the UK as well as offering telephone and remote facilities, announced pre-tax profits of 170.8 million, up from 32.4m last year.

Turnover was 77 per cent higher at 5.9 billion, and the gross win - the amount left behind by consumers after betting - was up 24 per cent to 654.3m. The final dividend also rose significantly, up 44 per cent from 8.7p to 12.5p.

Chief executive David Harding said he was delighted that gambling in the UK appears to be on the rise, and put it down to a change in both perception and accessibility: "Gambling has become far more of a mainstream past-time - it used to be something youd do by yourself and probably were a little embarrassed by.

"I would hesitate to say its a cultural change, but I guess there must be some element of that. The National Lottery in particular helped change attitudes since the government actually started promoting gambling."

During the year, William Hill - second behind Ladbrokes in terms of number of shops - introduced virtual betting machines and fixed odd betting terminals, which Harding said "provided a welcome boost to the retail business".

He also noted the benefit of the decision to open on Sundays, and said changes in regulation which allowed betting during football matches had "quite a significant impact" on the business.

Harding also announced that it was aiming to buy back about 10 per cent of the shares to "return value to shareholders", an issue that will be considered at the forthcoming AGM.

After a start to the year which saw the gross win rise by 17 per cent, and double digit growth in all channels, Harding was confident the business would continue to prosper.

He said: "We have Cheltenham coming up in a few weeks and expect Euro 2004 to have a chunky impact, but we are becoming less dependent on individual events.

"Certainly theres more in the tank, and there is no indication of our internet business slowing down, so were looking forward to another good year."

Its shares dropped 9p to close at 486.5p, still well up on the 2002 flotation price of 225p.

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