William Hill’s Australian operation was the only one that increased its operating profit in the fourth quarter, thanks to the Spring Carnival period, with a 59% jump mitigating somewhat a 13% drop in retail operating profit and a 6% dip online. It meant that the group’s Q4 operating profit as a whole dropped 7%.
On a full-year basis, Group net revenue increased 8%. Within this, Retail was slightly ahead, Online increased 18%, William Hill Australia was up 41% (11% on a pro forma local currency basis), William Hill US increased 30% and Telephone was down 28%.
Group operating profit is expected to be around £371m. Full-year pre-exceptional defined amortisation is now expected to be c£9m. The Group expects its pre-exceptional effective tax rate for 2014 to be 20% and for 2015 to remain at 19%.
CEO James Henderson (pictured) commented: “Overall it’s been a good performance in 2014 for the Group, driven by both the continued development of our UK-facing operations and our international diversification, together with a successful World Cup. On a full-year basis, operating profit from Online, William Hill Australia and William Hill US all continued to grow very strongly and Retail delivered another resilient performance, benefiting from effective cost control.
Henderson added that Q4 provided generally weaker sporting results in December which impacted revenue progression, as did a very tough November comparative, but gaming continued to grow. “In particular, Boxing Day – one of the busiest days in our year – was a very good day for the customer with all but one of the top ten football favourites winning that day. Yet, in spite of that, our performance means we’ve delivered our best ever full-year operating profit result. Notwithstanding a difficult start to the new year with highly unfavourable football results in week 3, we remain in a strong position going into 2015. Online is very well positioned as the new Point of Consumption Tax regime starts and we continue to diversify successfully, with 18 per cent of our revenues now coming from outside the UK.”
William Hill is also to rebrand its Australian operations to come under the group banner. Henderson said that William Hill Australia’s potential has been significantly improved as a result of recent management changes, the restructuring of operations, increased marketing effectiveness, enhanced user experience and the ongoing expansion of the product range.
He added: “Using the William Hill brand in Italy, Spain and the US, alongside the UK, has already proved highly successful. I believe now is the right time to adopt the William Hill brand in Australia. The previous introduction of the ‘powered by William Hill’ branding in that market has seen awareness build and the complete change will further improve our competitiveness, bring greater focus to our marketing and IT investment and gives us a strong global brand to compete at the highest level in this attractive market.”