Christmas Sports Bets Bring Tough End to Year for William Hill

  • Holiday soccer and horse-racing results go against bookmaker
  • Profit will be about 20 million pounds less then expected

A bad run of soccer and horse-racing results made it a Christmas to forget for William Hill Plc -- and one to remember for some of the U.K. bookmaker’s customers.

Winning favorites in Premier League matches and big races such as the King George VI Chase meant profit was about 20 million pounds ($24.4 million) below prior expectations, the company said Monday. One bettor who wagered 20 pounds on the outcome of 11 soccer matches earned about 103,000 pounds on a winning bet.

“The reduction to guidance appears to be driven solely by the well-flagged highly unfavorable sporting results during the busy December period,” Gavin Kelleher, an analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers, said in a note.

The news caps a turbulent year for William Hill, during which it ousted its chief executive officer, foiled a planned takeover by a group of rivals and held unsuccessful merger talks with Canada’s Amaya Inc. The bookmaker has yet to appoint a permanent successor to former CEO James Henderson as it seeks to revive a struggling online business and awaits the outcome of a government review of gambling machines in betting shops.

William Hill shares fell as much as 4 percent in London, adding to last year’s 27 percent drop. The stock was down 3.2 percent at 288.1 pence at 8:13 a.m.

A busy post-Christmas soccer schedule couldn’t have worked out much worse for bookmakers, with all the best-backed teams winning, including Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal. To make matters worse, results at the race tracks were just as bad, with gambled-on Thistlecrack winning Kempton’s King George Chase and favorite Native River taking the Welsh National at Chepstow.

Online, Australia

William Hill said its run of bad luck was mitigated by continued improvements in wagering in its online and Australian businesses.

“With key underlying trends continuing to be positive, the recent run of sporting results have not changed our confidence in a better performance in 2017,” the bookmaker said.

  • 2016 operating profit was about 260 million pounds, at the bottom end of the guided 260 million pounds to 280 million pounds, William Hill said. In August, the company said it expected operating profit close to the top of that range.
  • Final results will be announced Feb. 24.
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