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Substantial online growth boosts William Hill results

Philip Bowcock: "positive start to the year"
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The overhaul of William Hill's online operation appears to be bearing fruit with net revenue in the division surging by 16 per cent according to the bookmaker's latest trading update released on Tuesday.

Updating the markets on performance for this year up to April 25, Hills said there had been growth in wagering and net revenue across all four of their divisions, with group net revenue rising by nine per cent.

The bookmaker's online arm had been faltering, contributing to a series of profit warnings and the departure of new chief executive Philip Bowcock's predecessor James Henderson last summer.

In online, Hills reported favourable horseracing results had contributed to a stronger gross win margin, but football was lower than expectations.

A new Android app and the rollout of a new-look desktop site had helped drive an 11 per cent increase in UK betting, while there had been a 24 per cent increase in new accounts opened across the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals.

However, the company also said it expected the reformed levy system introduced in April, which will now capture online betting on the sport for the first time, would cost it around £5 million by the end of the year.

Bowcock said: "It's been a positive start to the year for William Hill across the board. Our online business continues to deliver growth thanks to the improvements in product, user experience and marketing we've made."

Net revenue across Hills' betting shop estate was up just one per cent, with sportsbook amounts wagered up two per cent, thanks to more horseracing fixtures.

However, that still compared favourably to the performance of high street rivals Ladbrokes Coral, whose trading update last week detailed net revenue in betting shops down two per cent and amounts staked over the counter down seven per cent.

Net revenue in Hills's Australian arm increased by 41 per cent and in the US by 19 per cent.

Bowcock added: "Retail is also seeing positive trends while our key international markets continue to perform well with double-digit wagering growth.

"Our transformation programme is progressing well and we're on track to deliver £40m of annualised savings by the year-end. Overall, we're in line with market expectations for 2017 at this early stage in the year."

Analyst Gavin Kelleher of Goodbody described the update as "encouraging", adding of the online figures that the performance "should ease concerns that the group continues to lose market share".

The bookmaker's share price ended the day up 2p at 302.2p.

We are in line with market expectations for 2017 at this early stage in the year
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