While it waits at the altar for Caesars Entertainment to do the right thing and put a ring on its finger, William Hill has reminded the watching wedding party what made it so desirable in the first place.
Although its 2020 net revenue, hit by Covid-19 retail closures, declined by some 16 per cent, year-on-year, to £1.3bn (US$1.79bn/€1.5bn), the company’s iGaming division continued its expansion—by nine per cent overall–and delivered a very robust £802m (US$1.1bn/€929.2bn) despite powerful pandemic headwinds.
With William Hill Online and Mr Green brands humming along sweetly on the company’s proprietary platforms from a central hub in Malta, and Internet action the future for all to see, little wonder that Caesars are willing to pay a handsome dowry of £2.9bn (US$4bn/€3.35bn) to seal its marriage of convenience with British gaming royalty.
“We began the year well and finished the year even stronger. The performance in H2 is clear testimony that our strategy is bearing fruit,” affirmed William Hill’s CEO Ulrik Bengtsson.
“In the UK, the competitive position of our online offerings for both gaming and sports has been materially strengthened. And our Omni-channel product is [also] delivering encouraging early results.”
William Hill’s Online Division has posted an operating profit of £122m (US$168.54m/€141.33m) for 2020, three per cent up on 2019.
Group operating profit, overall, was a relatively modest £57m (US$78.75m/€66.03m), down over 60 per cent on FY2019.
Because its 1,400 bricks-and-mortar outlets were shuttered for around a third of the year, retail, not surprisingly, was hammered: with net revenue halved to £354m (US$489m/€410m). The division posted an operating loss of £30m (US$41.44m/€34.75m).
Nevertheless, the operator asserted: “Retail continues to play a key role in sustaining the value of the William Hill brand and delivering a single view of our UK customer.
“We have begun to move towards an Omni-channel offering, bringing UK Retail and UK Online together under one leadership team with one goal – to be our UK customer’s first choice for betting and gaming.”
As the group prepares for the consummation of its marriage with Caesars, such resolve is likely to be sorely tested.
Many gambling industry insiders believe that the American suitor will gut and devour WH’s online expertise and then sell the remaining carcass to all comers.
Let’s hope it’s not soon downhill all the way for one of the UK’s most iconic betting brands.