Friday October 19, 2012 :  RANK GROUP ISSUES TRADING UPDATE
 
Group combines online and land results under its main brands
 
The UK publicly listed Rank Group has moved to brand-based reporting in its latest trading update; combining online and land based performances together under the group's principal brands Mecca, Grosvenor, Blue Square and Top Rank Espana.
 
The current update covers the 15 week period to October 14 2012 and features a 4 percent revenue growth driven principally by strong trading in Mecca's digital channel and Grosvenor Casinos land and digital operations.
 
Grosvenor Casinos brand grew total revenue by 8 percent, with growth across both channels and land venues reporting a 13 percent growth in spend per visits, which more than offset a 5 percent drop in customer visits.  The growth in digital revenue is encouraging, but comprised less than 3 percent of the overall brand revenue.
 
The Mecca brand grew total revenue by 1 percent, with a strong performance from the digital channel. Meccabingo.com continued to show strong growth at 11 percent, supported by a GBP 400,000 TV campaign. Mecca's land venues delivered flat revenue but a 3 percent increase in spend per visit offsetting a 2 percent decline in customer visits.
 
Top Rank Espana has held Euro revenue in line with the same period last year, in spite of the worsening economic situation in Spain.  In sterling terms, revenue fell by 9 percent due to adverse foreign exchange rates.
 
Blue Square Bet achieved a 19 percent increase in revenue partly driven by a GBP 2 million brand awareness campaign including TV advertising. This brand has commenced a transformational project to upgrade its sports products at an expected total capital cost of GBP 3.5 million.  This will accommodate an expected shift in sports betting customers to mobile as a device of choice. The investments specifically include:
 
• A partnership with the leading sports platform operator, Openbet, for an industry leading sports betting platform;
 
• The creation of a faster and more flexible multi-channel experience to support the ‘no nonsense' brand proposition and to enable Blue Square Bet to offer sports products to over 2 million active customers of the other Rank brands; and
 
•  Improving the quality, content and range of its sports products
 
The update gives the latest developments on Rank Group's attempted acquisition of the Gala Coral group, noting that the company is assisting the UK Competition Commission with its inquiry into the proposed acquisition. Gala Coral Group and Rank are continuing their discussions in relation to appropriate amendments to the previously agreed terms in light of the reference to the Competition Commission.
 
Rank is still embroiled in a debate with the tax authorities regarding VAT on amusement machine revenues. The case has been referred back to the First Tier Tribunal and could take longer than originally anticipated to resolve, with a GBP 26.4 million VAT overpayment already paid back to Rank (see previous InfoPowa reports) at stake, augmented by a  GBP 4.4 million interest claim.