2008 'Make or Break' for Sportech

5 August 2008

On the cusp of launching its much-anticipated New Football Pools brand, Sportech revealed first-half adjusted pre-tax profits of £7.8 million, up 50 percent against the comparable period last year.

Gross win revenue from the company's core pools betting business rose £8.3 million, or 37 percent, to £30.3 million against the first half of last year, though e-gaming revenue fell 3.1 percent to £6.3 million.

Notably, across the 2008 fiscal year, Vernons Football Pools, which was acquired in December 2007, contributed £8.1 million to the £8.3 million rise in pools gross win revenue.

This year continues to be one of transformation for the Liverpool operator, which will soon realize the redefinition of both its pools and online offerings.

The New Football Pools -- a £213.5 million agglomerate of Littlewoods Pools, Zetters Football Pools and Vernons -- is on schedule to launch later this month.

Meanwhile, the company's online poker, casino, bingo and associated payment processing services are, from next month, to be handled by 888 Holdings, the Gibraltar operator.

With poker customer numbers and revenue per player off 7 percent and 17 percent respectively, Sportech expects the move to 888 will help mitigate the downturn.

Small but thriving, the company's online bingo business generated revenue of £600,000, up 100 percent over the previous-year period on a successful televised advertising campaign and a 26 percent jump in active players.

The company, which in previous announcements has made its interest known in the Tote, gave no further update other than to say it "awaits developments with interest."

"2008 is the make-or-break year with a full year of Vernons, the relaunch of the pools and of the online offer," Ivor Jones, an analyst with Evolution Securities in London, wrote in a research note last month. "The changes have been carefully planned -- we are optimistic about execution."

Sportech, with a market capitalization of £79 million, was up 1 pence, or 1.29 percent, to 78.5 percent on the London Stock Exchange.

Chris Krafcik is the editor of IGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Mo.