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SBD Global/August 13, 2014/Finance

U.K. Bookmaker Ladbrokes' First-Half Profit Down By A Third Despite World Cup Success

Restructuring at U.K. bookmaker Ladbrokes contributed to a 50% drop in "first-half pre-tax profits -- even after it enjoyed a bumper World Cup in Brazil," according to Duncan Robinson of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Britain's second-biggest bookmaker said that pre-tax profit had halved to £27.7M ($47M) for the six months to Tuesday as the group "closed stores across the UK and overhauled its struggling online business." Ladbrokes CEO Richard Glynn said that the "bulk of the restructuring was now done." Glynn: "A lot of the heavy lifting has been completed. A lot of the operational risk has gone" (FT, 8/12). REUTERS' Paul Sandle reported Ladbrokes, which trades from "more than 2,800 High Street locations as well as online," said operating profit fell to £56.8M, "just beating market expectations," on net revenue up 1.6% to £577.8M ($971.3M) for the six months to June. Glynn, who had "come under pressure from some shareholders eager to see evidence of improvement, said the operational problems had been fixed." Glynn: "We set ourselves a target at the beginning of the year to make ourselves match-fit for the World Cup, and I think on anyone's examination we had a strong World Cup." Citi analyst James Ainley, who has a "sell" rating on the stock, said a "renewed commitment to a 'flat' full-year dividend should provide share support in the short term." Ainley: "The World Cup football performance adds a glimmer of hope for a digital revival." Peel Hunt analyst Nick Batram, who also rates Ladbrokes a "sell," said there was "no doubt the platform and product range was improving, but with increased duties on gaming machines and other taxes, the management was trying to turn around the business" in the face of a "regulatory storm" (REUTERS, 8/12).
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