William Hill profits fall despite football bet boost

Portugal celebrate winning Euro 2016 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption William Hill enjoyed a profitable Euro 2016 tournament

A winning streak in football was not enough to rescue half-year profits at betting firm William Hill.

The UK betting firm reported a 16% drop in operating profits to £131.1m, with turnover up 1% to £814.4m.

William Hill, currently the subject of a merger attempt by 888 Holdings and Rank Group, won £36m from punters betting on the Euro 2016 football tournament.

That offset the £5.5m loss it incurred on the Cheltenham horseracing festival.

But William Hill's interim chief executive, Philip Bowcock, said the first half of 2016 had been "challenging" as it battled to sort out issues with its online business, including problems with its new app.

He said three out of its four business - the retail side, the US and Australia - had performed well in the six months to 28 June and trading was in line with full-year expectations.

"We have taken considerable steps forward in executing on online's improvements but there is still a way to go," he said.

Mr Bowcock made no comment on the approach from 888 Holdings and Rank Group in July. At the time, the company said it was "not clear" that a combination would "enhance William Hill's strategic positioning".

Rivals to merge

Despite the fall in operating profits, William Hill said trading still remained "in line with previous full-year operating profit guidance of £260m-£280m".

Pre-tax profits for the half year rose 28% to £100.7m, but this was due to the previous year's results being hit by a large one-off charge related to the rebranding of its Australian business.

Earlier this year, James Henderson was ousted from his position as William Hill chief executive following a series of profit warnings.

William Hill is the UK's largest betting shop operator, however it is set to lose its number one status following the planned merger between Ladbrokes and Gala Coral.

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