Paddy enjoys 'unpredictability of sport'

Bookmaker Paddy Power reported a sharp hike in profits yesterday as it revealed it made £15m from losing punters at this summer's World Cup.

The tournament in South Africa contributed to a favourable six months of sporting results for the Irish firm, which enjoyed a 54 per cent rise in half-year profits to 52.5 million euros (43m) in the six months to June 30.

It also revealed a six-fold increase in profits from its UK betting shop estate after it opened 27 new shops in the period.

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Profits last year were hammered by unfavourable horse racing results and a clean sweep by Irish teams of rugby's Grand Slam, Heineken Cup and Magners League titles.

Chief executive Patrick Kennedy said profits for the current year were now expected to exceed current market forecasts, helped by the company's growing online presence.

He added: "As ever, our financial performance is subject to the glorious unpredictability of sport.

"Overall though, we finished up a little ahead of our normal expectations and certainly a good deal better than where we were last year."

Paddy Power customers bet 86 million euros (70.5m) on the World Cup, generating a gross win for the company of 18 million euros (14.7m) – a four-fold increase on Euro 2008 and the previous World Cup.

Spain's victory generated a profitable return for bookmakers after the European champions' opening defeat to Switzerland deterred some would-be backers, and bookies also benefited from patriotic bets on England.

Around 43 per cent of the group's operating profit is generated from UK customers, with 39 per cent from Irish customers and 16 per cent from punters in Australia.

Profits from the UK retail estate jumped to 3 million euros (2.45m), from 460,000 euros a year earlier, after it introduced new gaming machines and benefited from positive trends seen during the World Cup.