William Hill’s half-year results see shares peak at 280p | City & Business | Finance

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This still represented a rise of 7 per cent from the day before results.

Sporting results, particularly at the back end of the 2016/17 football season, shifted in favour of the punter over the half.

This meant that gross win margins, a measure of how much of the average stake stays in the bookie’s pocket, dropped over the period.

While the net effect was a 1 per cent drop in adjusted operating profit, which fell to £130million, the group appears to be more confident about its future prospects.

This confidence comes from the growth it has seen across all areas of its business, in terms of the amounts customers are betting.

Despite the absence of a major football tournament, amounts wagered rose 2 per cent on the UK high street, 11 per cent in the online sportsbook, and by even more in Australia and the USA.

While there is plenty more to be done before the website and app are flying high again, the group’s cost savings of £40million per annum on are track, so should give it plenty of ammunition for further improvements.

However, there is a big, regulation shaped cloud hanging over the whole sector at the moment.

Despite attempts to market its services to a more recreational punter, William Hill still generates a significant proportion of profits from fixed odds betting terminals.

Many see these machines as the crack cocaine of gambling, and calls for a clampdown are getting louder.

If regulation here is tightened materially, profitability would take a hit.

Reflecting these worries, the shares trade on 10.4 times expected earnings, well below their historic average.

While the dividend yield is in excess of 5 per cent, the payout could be called into question if the gambling commission comes down hard on machines.

We expect the outcome of the review to be announced at some point towards the end of the year.

Until then, as far as the stability of the dividend goes, all bets are off.



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