William Hill delivers on group-wide recovery as US takeover priorities loom

William Hill has stated that it is tracking ‘solid progress across all divisions’, as the FTSE betting group returns all operating units to robust trading during a transformative Q3 period.

Publishing its Q3 trading update for the 13 week period to 29 September 2020, William Hill noted an ‘encouraging’ performance across all verticals, particularly highlighting growth across its ‘online international’ and US-focused divisions.

Overall online performance is expected to have increased by 4% during Q3, with UK online activities growing by 4% and International by 6%. The bookmaker attributed this growth to their increasing availability of a more ‘competitive product with greater velocity’.

During the period, William Hill stated that its international online gaming offering had been bolstered by an ‘updated version of the Mr Green live casino’, which the operator believes has helped deliver an enhanced player experience across all operational jurisdictions.

Predicting ‘double digit gaming net revenue growth’ during Q3, William Hill also noted that this growth has been driven by the launch of new applications which have helped ‘deliver local offers in several core markets’.

William Hill stated that a similar approach of new product development was taken in the UK, having completed ‘the first significant update of UK architecture in five years’.

Ulrik Bengtsson, Chief Executive Officer, commented: “We are very pleased with the trading performance of the Group, which has been borne out of the commitment, resilience and hard work of our teams across the business. I could not be prouder of them.

“We have moved the company forward with our relentless focus on our customers, enhancing the competitiveness of our product, and maintaining player safety as one of our highest priorities. We have reinvigorated the leadership team and they, in turn, have empowered their teams to deliver on our plans.”

William Hill’s retail division was the only unit which the operator believes will record a Q3 loss, attributed to coronavirus restrictions which are in place across large parts of the UK, accounting for approximately 10% of William Hill shops.

Retail like-for-like is expected to drop by 2% during the period, however William Hill remained optimistic about a return to pre-COVID trading levels, with the company having opened a total of 1,400 betting estates during the period under its ‘phased opening strategy’.

Impending local restrictions are expected to result in the closure of 100 shops for four weeks, which will likely reduce EBITDA by approximately £2 million, excluding the benefit from any job support schemes for which the operator may be eligible.

The statement would see William Hill highlight a number of US strategic projects and priorities advancing the FTSE firm’s position following Q3’s agreement to a £2.9 billion takeover by Caesars Entertainment – as a result, the US will likely form a long-term focus for the operator as it seeks to grow its presence in the post-PASPA market.

The bookmaker stated that it had completed the acquisition of Cantor sportsbooks and commenced the integration of Caesar’s InPerson retail sports books. Following the full integration of the Caesars’ sportsbooks, William Hill will become operational in more than 170 venues across 15 states, of which the majority will have a mobile William Hill presence.

US performance is expected to grow by 10% during Q3 following a ‘strong’ growth in wagers, as William Hill noted that 72% of wagers were placed through mobile channels.

Closing its trading statement, William Hill confirmed that it anticipates payment of its multi-million £ HMRC VAT settlement on incorrect gaming machine duties to be refunded imminently.

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