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Ladbrokes profits halve despite 'good' World Cup

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Bookmaker Ladbrokes has reported a sharp fall in profit, despite saying it had had a "good World Cup" performance.

Pre-tax profit fell 49.7% to £27.7m in the first half of the year ending 30th June,

The firm said its focus for the period had been operational improvements, which meant its "financial performance would inevitably lag behind".

Ladbrokes boss Richard Glynn said it was now "well positioned for growth".

"We have made substantial progress. We now have the products, the platforms, the people and the brand in place to deliver," he added.

Ladbrokes formed a tie-up with software developer Playtech last year and as a result switched its gaming products to a new system.

'Customer friendly results'

The firm admitted the switch over had caused more disruption than expected, but said it was now complete.

Ladbrokes said it had also completed the replacement of 9,000 of its gaming machines with more sophisticated models.

It also closed 46 of its "under performing" shops in the first half, nearing its target of 50 for the year. It said further shop closures beyond this were "inevitable", but it was too early to specify the number.

The firm said its performance in the UK was hit by "industry-wide customer friendly results" in both the January football and horse racing in June.

And it said its adherence to the The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) voluntary industry code of conduct had also had "a clear impact on revenues".

'Unquestionably poor'

The code, which enables players to set spend and time limits on gaming machines, aims to promote responsible gambling.

However, it said its World Cup performance had been "strong" with bets on mobiles up 1,100%.

"The board remains confident of the outlook for the business and in delivering a result in line with its expectations for the current year," it added.

Shares in Ladbrokes rose 3% in early trading. Peel Hunt analyst Nick Batram said the fall in profit was in line with expectations.

"The results are unquestionably poor but they are in line with forecasts. It's also a positive narrative from Ladbrokes in that it has focused on all the things it is implementing to put it right," he added.

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