William Hill’s decision to take a £238m impairment charge on the value of its Australian business saw the bookmaker report a pre-tax loss of £75m for 2017, but the firm is confident that the performance of the business as a whole is positive.
While Group net revenue grew 7% to £1,711.1m, a total of £335.0m of exceptional costs and adjustments ruined the firm’s balance sheet. Apart from the goodwill impairment of the Australian business following adverse tax and regulatory changes, other charges were from the costs of the Group-wide transformation programme and from retrospective VAT payments in Germany and three other markets.
The firm added: “However, adjusted operating profit, which gives a clearer picture of underlying performance, was up 11% to £291.3m, supported in particular by strong growth in our Online and US businesses.”
William Hill hailed its omnichannel capabilities and its position in the US ahead of potential deregulation, but following its £6.2m Gambling Commission fine earlier in the week it is now making a major play for developing a ‘sustainable’ business.
It explained: “We are focused on improving our approach to responsible gambling to build a long-term, sustainable business for all our stakeholders, and especially for any of our customers who are at risk from problem gambling.
We recognise that it is not enough to grow: we have to grow the right way. That means acting in a sustainable way that takes account of all our stakeholders. We remain a company with commercial objectives but commercial gain should not come at the expense of being a responsible company. We are committed to treating customers fairly and openly, to protecting the vulnerable and to keeping crime out of gambling.”
After the regulatory settlement with the Gambling Commission, William Hill also announced it is introducing ‘new and improved policies and increased levels of resourcing’ to improve its ability to ensure full regulatory compliance, committing to an independent process review.
It added: “We are fully committed to operating a sustainable business that properly identifies risk and better protects customers and we will continue to assist the Commission and work with other operators to improve practices in this area.
“We can and will do more to embed sustainability for the long term. In the months ahead we will be taking a number of important steps in key areas, including improving the transparency of our marketing and communications, increasing responsible gambling measures and enhancing our stakeholder engagement. We will update on these measures in due course.”