BUSINESS

William Hill’s online division not quite dead yet

TAGs: William Hill

william-hill-online-not-quite-deadUK bookmakers William Hill have revamped their board after announcing a rebound of sorts in their struggling online business.

Hills released an H2 trading update on Monday, which showed group revenue rising 6% in the 17 weeks ending October 25. For a change, online outpaced retail as digital wagering grew 4% thanks to a 6% bump in sportsbook handle, while retail revenue was flat as wagers fell 5% from the same period last year.

Online sportsbook revenue was up 11% year-on-year thanks in part to an improved win rate. The sports gains offset a 2% fall in gaming revenue, although that’s an improvement over H1’s 6% decline. Average revenue per user is up 16% while average wagering per sportsbook active customer gained 17%.

On a geographic basis, Hills’ core markets of the UK, Italy and Spain saw revenue rise 2%, while other markets improved 22% and Australia rose 27% on a local currency basis despite less than optimal racing results. The William Hill US division continues to shine, with handle up 10% and revenue rising 52% thanks to good baseball and football results.

Hills’ interim CEO Philip Bowcock credited the digital gains to “significant enhancements” to its wonky mobile sportsbook app. Bowcock says the “heavy lifting” in improving the online experience will be done by Q1 2017. Presumably, this includes better means of mitigating the kind of digital chicanery that knocked Hills’ website offline for several days earlier this month.

Bowcock warned that new accounts and actives would be “down for a while” due to the company having “addressed unprofitable business” in Q2 and Q3. On the plus side, new sign-ups were generating 65% more revenue in their first month and retention rate within one month of a new signup improved 42%.

Bowcock said Hills remains on track to turn in FY16 earnings “at the top end of our guided range” of £260m to £280m. Bowcock said the company has identified around £30m of operating efficiencies it intends to realize in 2017, while the company also plans to reallocate £15m of digital marketing spending following a consultant’s review.

Hills’ statement included news of three additions to the company’s board of directors. Former Ladbrokes and Coral Interactive managing director John O’Reilly and former Tesco exec Robin Terrell will take their seats on January 2, while former Betfair COO Mark Brooker will join the team on April 3.

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