(Sharecast News) – Gambling firm William Hill said net annual revenue fell 16% to £1.32bn, reflecting the impact of betting shop closures during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The company, which is being taken over by US giant Caesars Entertainment in a £2.9bn deal, on Wednesday also reported a 9% rise in fourth quarter net revenue.
Sportsbook staking increased 16%, driven by enhanced products and geographical expansion, whilst gross win margins benefitted from favourable sporting results, driving Group sportsbook net revenue up 20% year-on-year.
US full year net revenue increased 32%, driven by strong growth online. Casinos remained closed or operated with restricted access for long periods and the major US sports leagues rescheduled their seasons in response to the pandemic.
William Hill US went live in five new states and launched mobile in five states, leading to 121% net revenue growth in the fourth quarter.
“When open, with no restrictions, retail traded well and profitably. At the end of the third quarter retail was on course for a breakeven outcome for the full year. However, the Covid-19 related restrictions experienced during the fourth quarter impacted all our 1,414 shops at some point, resulting in a full year loss of (around) £30m,” the company said.
The company also said it had repaid £24.5m pounds of furlough funds it received in the first-half and does not expect to claim any further job retention related support.
Caesars’ expects the remaining approvals required from the relevant US gaming authorities will be obtained in time to allow the merger to complete early in the second quarter of 2021, “but possibly as early as March 2021”, William Hill said in a trading statement.
“2020 was a year like no other… The offer received for the Group recognises the substantial progress we have made as well as the opportunities and challenges ahead of us,” said chief executive Officer Ulrik Bengtsson.
The US has been a key growth target for many gambling firms following a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that lifted a ban on sports betting.
MGM Resorts International earlier this month approached Ladbrokes owner Entain for an $11bn takeover, which the British firm rejected for being too low.