888 Holdings sees better annual profit, declares special dividend

(Reuters) - 888 Holdings 888.L on Wednesday forecast annual profit to top prior expectations for the second time this year and declared a special dividend, boosted by a shift to online betting, resumption of sports events and growth in the United States.

The London-listed gambling firm also posted a 56% jump in first-half adjusted core profit and said it generated 56% higher average daily revenue between July 1 and Sept. 28 - the third quarter to date - compared with the same period a year earlier.

888’s shares were up 25% at 261 pence in early trading after its announcement of a special payout of 2.8 cents per share along with an interim dividend of 3.2 cents per share.

Gambling companies in the UK have seen a mixed impact from the coronavirus crisis, as the pandemic shut down competitive sport globally but encouraged customers to play more to relieve themselves of boredom.

Tighter regulations at home have also prompted them to expand overseas to the United States, where states are now opening up to sports gambling, creating a lucrative market to tap into.

“We are pleased with our continued progress in the United States where revenue increased by 90% year-on-year ... We remain excited by the potentially significant medium- to long-term opportunities for 888 in the U.S. market,” Chief Executive Officer Itai Pazner said.

Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M and Uttaresh.V