A Profitable Prognostication for William Hil

9 July 2003

Amid a sluggish global economy and the many challenges faced by wagering companies in the United Kingdom and worldwide, British bookmaker William Hill continues to put up impressive numbers.

The company's financial results for the 52-week period ended Dec. 31, 2002, during which the group floated on the London Exchange, are a strong indication that they have a solid recipe for success.

Their financial highlights are as follows:

  • Turnover was up 37 percent to £3,365.3 million (from £2,452.2 million in 2001) and gross win was up 5 percent to £527.7 million (from £502.6 million 2001).
  • Gross profit was up 14 percent to £416.0 million (from £365.0 million in 2001).
  • Exceptional costs, due to their flotation, totaled £49.1 million (compared to none in 2001).
  • Profit on ordinary activities before finance charges, taxation and exceptional costs was up 26 percent to £141.4 million (from £112.0 million in 2001).
  • Basic earnings per share (before exceptional costs) was up 145 percent to 16.9 pence (from 6.9 pence in 2001).
  • The interim dividend was 2.9 pence per share; the proposed final dividend was 5.8 pence per share (payable from June 5th, 2003)--a total dividend of 8.7 pence per share.

Addressing shareholders at the May 29, 2003 meeting, John Brown, Chairman, said, "Since our last trading update in March, the group has continued to perform significantly ahead of the corresponding period. In the 20 weeks ended May 20 2003, the group's gross win was up 20.2 percent, and operating expenses increased by 8.5 percent compared to the corresponding period. Roughly half the growth in gross win was due to the roll out of fixed odds betting terminals and the balance is due to organic growth and the impact of recent acquisitions."

All three divisions are performing well, with particularly strong growth in the retail and interactive businesses. The group has now entered the summer trading period, when horse racing results become more significant due to the extensive racing program in the United Kingdom and the break in the football season.

Founded in 1934, William Hill is one of the world's leading providers of fixed-odds bookmaking services, offering odds and taking bets on a wide range of sporting and other events. The group also offers FOBTs (fixed-odds betting terminals) in its betting shops and operates an online sports book (www.williamhill.co.uk), casino (www.williamhillcasino.com) and poker room (www.williamhillpoker.com).

William Hill PLC is quoted on the London Stock Exchange (Symbol WMH) and is a member of the FTSE 250 Index. It is No. 2 leading provider of fixed-odds bookmaking services, after Ladbrokes Limited.

The group this year faces the challenge of keeping revenues up during an odd year's summer season. (The Olympics and soccer's World Cup account for a lot of betting during even years.) The main international sports event this summer is the three-week-long Tour De France 2003 cycling event, although with the outright betting on riders, who may get out of competition before the end of the event, this type of betting is typically not successful. The group is attempting to change this, however, by employing a new cycling betting product called Veloto, a combination of lotto, cycling know-how and a totalizator system (including jackpots).

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.