Bookmaker William Hill has reported annual profits crashed by 91% after the pandemic forced the closure of its betting shops and saw live sports events cancelled.
The group – which is being bought by US casino giant Caesars Group in a £2.9 billion deal – was left nursing underlying pre-tax profits of just £9.1 million in 2020, down from £96.5 million in 2019.
Its 1,414 betting shops were hit hard by repeated lockdowns and restrictions, with the retail arm slumping to a £29.5 million loss as like-for-like revenues plunged 30%.
William Hill’s online business – accounting for 61% of group revenues – delivered a 3% rise in earnings to £121.9 million, but this was not enough to offset the retail woes.
Chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson said the group’s betting shops traded strongly when they were able to open.
He said: “Retail bounced back very quickly and I anticipate that to happen again, we can then assess the long-term performance.”
He added: “We will come back strongly and quickly.”
Results showed its net revenues slumped 16% as the pandemic led to widespread disruption of live sporting events as well as the retail and casino closures.
But it said: “2020 has been a decisive year for William Hill, with careful financial management leaving the balance sheet in a healthy position, enabling the group to capture the opportunities that 2021 will bring through the acquisition by Caesars and their intention to seek suitable partners or owners for the non-US business.”
William Hill agreed to a takeover by Caesars in November and its suitor saw off competition from rival bidder, private equity giant Apollo.
Ladbrokes owner Entain, also reporting on Thursday, fared better over the year thanks to surging growth in its US joint venture and the switch to online gambling.
The group swung to a pre-tax profit of £174.7 million in 2020 against losses of £164.4 million the previous year, while underlying operating profits nudged 2% higher to £529.5 million.
It hailed 20 quarters in a row of double-digit online net gaming revenue growth and said BetMGM – its joint venture with MGM Resorts – notched up an 18% increase in market share.
The BetMGM business delivered better-than-expected revenues of 178 million US dollars (£127.5 million) in 2020, it added.