Profits slump at William Hill following punter-friendly results

Debut delight: Alfred NDiaye celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hull against Liverpool. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Debut delight: Alfred NDiaye celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hull against Liverpool. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

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Profits at William Hill were dragged down by punter-friendly football and horse racing results last year, but Liverpool’s disastrous start to this year is helping the firm bounce back.

The bookmaker said that adjusted operating profit slumped 10% to £261.5 million in the year to December, with William Hill taking a huge hit on Boxing Day.

A total of 18 of the 20 best-backed sides won on the day after Christmas, meaning big payouts at the firm’s expense.

One lucky punter turned £20 into £103,000 when an 11-game accumulator bet paid off.

Like other bookmakers, William Hill was also hit after a string of favourites romped home at Cheltenham in March.

Nevertheless, revenue nudged up 1% to £1.6 billion over the period.

Interim chief executive Philip Bowcock said: “2016 was a challenging year for William Hill, but one in which we made considerable operational progress, leaving us well-placed to drive the business forward in 2017.”

The company has struggled to cope with the shift to online gambling, but Mr Bowcock said that he is seeing “encouraging signs” in this division, which is now “delivering sustained growth”.

William Hill said it has seen favourable sporting results since the new year, with Liverpool’s barren run of results helping to drive takings.

Jurgen Klopp’s side went 10 games without a victory before finally ending the rot with a 2-0 win over Tottenham earlier this month.

The betting sector is also waiting with baited breath for the conclusion of a government probe that could include a clampdown on betting machines and advertising.

Jason Holden, analyst at Liberum, said: “William Hill endured a very disappointing 2016 and there are no surprises in the results, which are in-line with previously lowered guidance.

“On a more positive note, the recent trends in UK online offer some encouragement but we continue to see an outlook clouded by major uncertainty over the outcome of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport review into gaming machines.”

Shares in William Hill rose 2.75% in morning trading to 269p.

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