Tuesday January 29,2013 : WILL HILL ISSUES TRADING UPDATE
 
Strong performance and positive strategic developments – online net revenue grew by 27 percent
 
William Hill plc has issued a trading update for the 14 weeks from 26 September 2012 to 1 January 2013 (Q4) and the unaudited 53 weeks to 1 January 2013 (full year).
 
Full year key financial highlights include:
 
* Group net revenue grew by 12 percent (52 week basis +10 percent) and operating profit was up 20 percent (52 week basis +18 percent)
 
* Online net revenue grew by 27 percent (52 week basis +24 percent)
 
* Retail net revenue grew by 6 percent (52 week basis +4 percent)
 
Q4 strategic highlights included:
 
* Recommended offer made for Sportingbet’s Australian and Spanish licensed online businesses
* Initiated valuation process under call option to acquire Playtech’s 29 percent stake in William Hill Online.
 
Chief executive Ralph Topping says:
 
“Q4 delivered a strong end to an already good year in 2012. Performance was robust in Retail and profits continued to grow strongly in Online, with sporting results going in our favour in both channels.
 
"It was a pleasing end to an important year for William Hill, a year in which we have made substantial strategic progress. With both the acquisition of Sportingbet’s online business in Australia and the current Playtech call option process expected to conclude during early 2013, the group continues to enhance its already strong platform for the continued development of the business.”
 
The company reports that its online business continued to perform strongly, with net revenue up 29 percent on strong Sportsbook and Casino growth. Sportsbook margin was 8.4 percent on a 13 week basis versus 7.6 percent in the comparable period and versus a normalised expected margin of around 7 percent.
 
Over the full year 2012 group performance was strong, with net revenue expected to be up around 12 percent and Operating profit expected to be around GBP 330 million (52 week basis GBP 326 million). Group net debt for covenant purposes continues to reduce ahead of the proposed Sportingbet acquisition and stood at around GBP 340 million at 1 January 2013.
 
Online operations continued to flourish throughout 2012, with the group seeing its third consecutive year of above 20 percent net revenue growth at +27 percent. Sportsbook net revenue grew 50 percent from a combination of 36 percent growth in amounts wagered and a strong gross win margin of 7.9 percent (2011: 7.0 percent) versus a normalised expected margin of around 7 percent. Gaming net revenue was up 14 percent, with a good performance from both Playtech Casino and Vegas Casino.
 
Will Hill's online mobile offering was further enhanced by the launch of a Sportsbook iPad app in December together with a number of new mobile gaming and virtual sports sites and apps in the second half. Mobile Sportsbook turnover was more than 260 percent higher than in 2011 and accounted for around one-third of all Sportsbook turnover in December.
 
Online operations achieved a record weekly mobile turnover of almost GBP 20 million in the final week of the year, benefitting from a strong football programme.
 
Operating profit for online and mobile for the year is expected to be around 36 percent ahead of 2011 at around GBP 145 million. Playtech’s non-controlling interest was GBP 12.3 million for Q4 and GBP 41.2 million for the full year.
 
On the retail side of the business, OTC amounts wagered fell by 1 percent due to weather-related horse race fixture cancellations. Despite this, OTC net revenue was up 7 percent with gross win margin at 18.2 percent – above the normalised 17-18 percent range and 1.4 percentage points ahead of the comparator period. Machines net revenue grew 5 percent with gross win per machine per week of GBP 911 (2011: GBP 901).
 
The gambling group reports that the acquisition of Sportingbet’s Australian and Spanish businesses is on track for a total cash consideration of GBP 454 million, and is in line with William Hill’s strategy to develop the group’s multi-channel operations, to increase its exposure to attractive licensed markets, and to diversify geographically.
 
The proposed acquisition is expected to complete by the end of the first quarter of 2013.
 
On the acquisition of Playtech's share in William Hill Online, the group notes that the valuation process should be complete by the end of February 2013, after which time William Hill has a short period to determine whether it will exercise its option at the value determined by the process.
 
The trading update also flags the withdrawal of the William Hill group from certain markets, with the costs associated with these closures expected tgo come in at GBP 7-9 million annually. The group also developments in the United Kingdom regarding forthcoming plans to tax and licence online gambling on a point-of-consumption basis by December 2014.
 
William Hill US reports that the integration of the three US land-based sports betting businesses acquired in June 2012 was successfully completed on schedule in September. Performance was impacted by weak sporting results, particularly the NFL in November, and as a result delivered a modest Operating loss.