William Hill says World Cup offset weak Ascot

LONDON Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:05am BST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Bookmaker William Hill (WMH.L) said first half earnings would be fractionally higher on the year before with the football World Cup offsetting the company's worst ever results from horseracing at Royal Ascot.

William Hill, which has around 2,300 betting shops in Britain and Ireland, said it expected earnings before interest, tax and amortisation to be around 135 million pounds in the first half, compared with 134.6 million the year before.

The company said its over-the-counter retail business had seen a very strong World Cup performance in June but also saw poor horseracing results in the second quarter as a whole, with a relatively weak Grand National in April followed by a loss-making Royal Ascot festival.

"Whilst it was our worst ever Royal Ascot, with a loss on the meeting, the World Cup proved to be one of the best for bookmakers in 40 years," Chief Executive Ralph Topping said on Tuesday.

The company added that William Hill Online had a strong performance in the half year with total online net revenue growth of about 24 percent and operating profit about 43 percent higher than in the prior year.

Shares in the company closed on Tuesday at 178.9 pence, valuing the business at 1.27 billion pounds.

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Lorraine Turner)

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