August 3, 2018 / 6:26 AM / 19 days ago

William Hill posts half-year loss, sees more charges; plans U.S. expansion

(Reuters) - British betting company William Hill Plc (WMH.L) on Friday posted a half-year loss and warned of more charges as it revamps its retail business due to tougher regulation at home, sending its shares down about 8 percent.

As it faces impending regulation, the company has considered several measures, which could include closing about 900 loss-making stores. William Hill said charges relating to shop closures, after the impairment taken for the half-year, could be in the range of 50,000 pounds to 60,000 pounds per shop.

Shares of the company are down 8 percent at 270 pence in morning trade.

The company said it plans to expand further into the U.S. sports gambling market, joining a list of British gambling companies betting on the United States after a Supreme court ruling in May lifted a ban on sports betting.

The company said it has signed agreements with 11 casinos in Mississippi and a casino in West Virginia.

The push into the U.S. comes as Britain cuts the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals to just two pounds to tackle the problem of gambling.

The decision hit William Hill and rivals, who argued that the terminals were a major source of income for high-street betting shops. Several firms have set their sights on the U.S.

This week alone, GVC Holdings (GVC.L) announced a venture with MGM (MGM.N), while a unit of Dublin-based bookmaker Paddy Power (PPB.I) struck a deal with U.S.-based casino operator Boyd Gaming (BYD.N).

The push into U.S. by William Hill should bolster revenue. In the six months ended June 27, the company said U.S. net revenue jumped 50 percent, with adjusted operating profit up 132 percent.

Overall revenue rose 3 percent to 802.6 million pounds, helped by FIFA football World Cup. The event helped boost online revenue by 11 percent, with online sportsbook transactions rising 18 percent and new online accounts growing 16 percent.

A report from online financial trading firm IG Group Holdings (IGG.L) estimated that as much as 2.5 billion pounds was wagered during the semi-final, with two-thirds of all UK bets backing England ahead of their game with Croatia. In comparison, at the World Cup in 2014, consumers wagered about 1 billion pounds.

However, the company posted a 3 percent drop in retail net revenue, partly hit by consumers shying away from spending on the high street.

William Hill reported a pre-tax loss of 802.3 million pounds compared with a profit of 108.6 million pounds last year, as it took a 915.9 million pound non-cash charge.

Reporting by Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr

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