Friday, May 11, 2012 : BWIN.PARTY STEADY DESPITE INTEGRATION CHALLENGES
 
Annual report shows company on an even keel with good prospects, especially in regulated markets.
 
Europe's biggest online gambling group, Bwin.Party digital entertainment reported a modest financial performance for 2011 in its annual report released Friday, achieving its targets despite the challenges of integrating two major businesses in a tough and dynamic business and economic environment.
 
Joint CEOs Norbert Teufelberger and Jim Ryan reported that the group's operating performance in 2011 is confirmation of steady progress, delivering total pro forma revenue from continuing operations of Euro 816.0 million (2010: Euro 814 million) and pro forma clean EBITDA from continuing operations of Euro 199.3 million (2010: Euro 193.2 million).
 
The company has made good progress in the regulatory compliance arena, an important achievement as more governments embrace the regulation of online gaming markets, changing the dynamics of the industry.
 
"Real money and social gaming together with other forms of digital entertainment are converging," the duo report. "At the same time mobile platforms are increasingly important channels of distribution – each of these developments is being driven by advances in technology, new regulations and changes in consumer demand."
 
The report highlights the following progress in 2011:
 
* Revenue slightly ahead to Euro 816 million.
 
* Clean EBITDA up 3 percent to Euro 199.3 million
 
* Clean EPS of 18.5 Euro cents
 
* DPS of 3.12p
 
* Alliances with MGM, Boyd Gaming and Danske Licens Spil
 
* Sale of Ongame for up to Euro 29.5 million
 
* Synergies of Euro 23.3 million realised in 2011, ahead of plan
 
* On-track to deliver Euro 40 million of synergies in 2012 and Euro 65 million in 2013 as planned
 
* Over 31 million shares repurchased.
 
"We made excellent progress in 2011, the two chief executives said.”The swift execution of a number of integration plans for our technology, people, products and brands has been rewarded with financial synergies coming through more quickly than expected, offsetting increased gaming duties payable as markets regulate. We remain on-track to deliver approximately Euro 40 million of synergies this year and Euro 65 million in 2013."
 
Current trading is robust, the company reports, breaking down quarterly revenues to March 24, 2012 and comparing these with Q4-2011:
 
Sports betting up 4 percent at Euro 932,600 (Q4-2011 Euro 900,200)
 
Casino and Games up 2 percent at Euro 923,800 (Q4-2011 Euro 902,700)
 
Poker neutral at E uro 747,300 (Q4-2011 Euro 747,200)
 
Bingo up 2 percent at Euro 324,100 (Q4-2011 Euro 319,000
 
"The pace of regulatory, technological and competitive change is showing no sign of slowing down," the report notes. "But, the scale and breadth of our revenue base, coupled with our significant resources all mean that we are in a strong position to capture a bigger share of the expanding digital entertainment market.
 
"Current trading has been robust with gross average daily revenue in the 12 weeks to 24 March 2012 up 2 percent versus the fourth quarter of 2011 to Euro 2,927,800 (Q4 11: Euro 2,869,100). While the current macroeconomic environment appears to be impacting performance in parts of southern Europe, this is being offset by stronger performances elsewhere.
 
"Active player days increased in all verticals versus the previous quarter and amounts wagered in both sports and casino were up strongly although there was a small drop in gross win margin to 7.9 percent in sports (Q4 11: 8.5 percent) and 3.9 percent in casino (Q4 11: 4.1 percent).
 
"Should the proposed regulatory framework in Schleswig-Holstein become effective and we are awarded a licence, we propose to offer sports betting, casino and poker products across Germany and pay the proposed tax of 20 percent of gross gaming revenue on all products. While this will impact Clean EBITDA in 2012, we have identified Euro 10 million – Euro 15 million of savings in 2012 and 2013 that will partially mitigate the impact on our financial performance.
 
"While regulatory uncertainties continue, the prospect of the Euro 2012 championship later this year, the opening of the regulated Spanish market and our delivery of additional synergies mean that we remain confident about the group’s prospects.
 
"2011 was the year of integration and regulation. 2012 will be the year of integration, regulation and innovation – we have made an excellent start."
 
Group chairman Simon Duffy said that twelve months into the merger of Bwin and Party Gaming, the combined enterprise is ahead of schedule in integrating the businesses and delivering the synergies expected, and is on track to extend its reach into new areas of digital entertainment.
 
"The rapid evolution of the online gaming industry is continuing, driven by advances in technology and changes to the regulatory landscape, resulting in a business environment that is both challenging and full of opportunity," Duffy noted.
 
"In such an environment, where the competitive landscape is usually settled within a short space of time, late entry into any newly-regulated market is not an option. The enlarged enterprise of bwin.party provides a unique platform from which to launch into new markets with the requisite scale to take full advantage of the freedom to advertise, often for the first time.
 
"As part of our goal of participating in all major newly regulated markets, we were among the first wave of operators to launch on the opening of the Danish market at the beginning of 2012, as we will be when Spain opens later this year. Our agreements with MGM and Boyd mean that we are well-placed to be in the first wave when regulations allow entry into the United States, either on a federal or state-by-state basis."