May 9, 2017 / 6:44 AM / 3 months ago

Online improvement helps William Hill make positive start to year

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FILE PHOTO: A branded sign is displayed outside a William Hill betting shop in London, Britain, July 25, 2016.Neil Hall/File Photo

(Reuters) - British bookmaker William Hill Plc, which in March named a new chief executive and finance head, on Tuesday reported a 16 percent rise in online net revenue for the 17 weeks to April 25 after product improvements helped it to attract more customers.

Group total net revenue was up 9 percent, with the strongest increase coming from Australia.

Steady growth in online comes as a welcome respite for the company which has been struggling to keep pace with rivals in that part of the business. Its board lost patience with chief executive James Henderson last July after two years in the job.

It confirmed interim boss Philip Bowcock as its chief executive in March and subsequently said Ruth Prior would join the company this year from Worldpay as chief financial officer.

Online gambling via smartphones and tablets has helped to drive growth for betting companies but it is a crowded field with traditional bookmakers operating high street shops jostling for market share with younger web-only companies.

"Overall, we are in line with market expectations for 2017," said the bookmaker which operates around 2,370 betting shops.

It was on course to deliver 40 million pounds of savings by the end of the year.

The trading statement comes in contrast to an update from Ladbrokes Coral which reported a 2 percent drop in UK retail net revenue from Jan.1-April 23, hit by punter-friendly sports results and pressure on consumer spending.

Shares in William Hill were up 1 percent at 303.3 p at 0740 GMT, after rising as much as 2.8 percent.

Reporting by Rahul B in Bengaluru; editing by Jason Neely/Keith Weir

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