William Hill says it can go it alone as suitors circle and profits dive

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Takeover target William Hill’s interim boss has insisted the bookmaker could survive as an independent company, as sliding first-half profits hit the shares.

Hills has been eclipsed by rival Ladbrokes after running into trouble with its online betting business and it sacked boss James Henderson two weeks ago. 

A consortium between Grosvenor Casinos owner Rank and online gaming firm 888 Holdings is eyeing the bookmaker, seeing “significant industrial logic” in a deal, and has until August 21 to put up or shut up with a firm offer.

Interim chief executive Philip Bowcock, who only joined the bookmaker as finance director last November and had no previous experience in the industry, said: “We’re not in a position that we have to do something. 

“We’ve got our priorities, we’ll focus on those and if anything comes around the board will listen as appropriately.” 

Hills said in response to the takeover business that it was “not clear” a deal with 888 and Rank would be better for investors than its own plans for digital and online growth.

Operating profits sank 16% to £131.1 million in the first half after a disastrous Cheltenham festival, while online revenues suffered as a result of thousands of online customers taking “time-outs” or excluding themselves from the website. 

Only a good Euro 2016, generating a gross win of £36 million, saved the company from even heavier damage. 

Russia’s last-minute equaliser against England in the Three Lions’ opening game of the tournament produced a £5 million swing for the bookie, turning a loss into a gain, Bowcock said. 

The shares crept 1.4p higher to 314.7p but are still down more than 20% since the beginning of the year. 

Goodbody analyst Gavin Kelleher said: “This morning’s results do highlight that William Hill is losing market share in certain parts of its business.”

Source Article from http://www.standard.co.uk/business/william-hill-says-it-can-go-it-alone-as-suitors-circle-and-profits-dive-a3312916.html

August 5, 2016 |
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