UK bookies Ladbrokes released a trading update on Thursday to allay fears that the company would miss its annual profit target. Ladbrokes said it expects 2013’s group operating profit to come in “around the middle” of analysts’ forecasted range of £129.8m to £151m, which sounds good, until you realize that Lads’ 2012 pre-tax profits hit £200.7m. As a show of faith, Lads vowed to hold its 2013 dividend to its 2012 rate of 8.90p per share and “at least maintain it at this level” in 2014. The market reserved judgment on Lads’ pronouncement, with shares closing out Thursday’s trading up 1.7% to 176p.
With its online operations lagging that of its UK competitors, the struggling Lads had downgraded profit expectations throughout 2013, prompting embattled CEO Richard Glynn (pictured) to warn staff that the company “simply cannot afford to miss expectations” in its annual results. Lads will release its official 2013 report card on Feb. 25. The company says it “remains on track to deliver against its key strategic priorities” in H1 2014, including the long-awaited Playtech-powered reboot of Lads’ online operations. Left unsaid is the potential impact of a government crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals, revenue from which Lads depends on more than any other UK high street bookmaker. Shore Capital analyst Greg Johnston said Lads’ path back to its former profitability level “appears be a long and arduous road.”
To help smooth out some of that road’s bumps, Lads has tapped London advertising agency BBH as the company’s new Mad Men. Lads’ director of brand and research Andy May said he expects BBH to “add real drive to our marketing campaign.” BBH beat out Lads’ former agency, SapientNitro, the brains behind the long-running campaign featuring Tiziano Crudeli and Chris Kamara. May said the onscreen duo had “served the brand very well” but that the campaign would wrap up over the next couple months. May said Kamara had “a unique connection with our target audience and will continue to be associated with the Ladbrokes brand going forward.”