William Hill Plans Staged Reopening Of UK Retail Estate

In the second half of the year, William Hill is preparing a phased reopening of its UK retail estate as the company withdraws all possible guidance after announcing that its COVID-impacted operations are performing ahead of initial estimates.

During a previous report during March the bookmaker presented a scenario where reduced sporting participation will lead to a drop in EBITDA from £ 100 m to £ 110 m before the autumn, and one month of shop closures.

As a result of the COVID-19 mitigation measures, it is reported that “we are performing ahead of the initial scenario” which now involves three months of shop closures, each month resulting in an EBITDA reduction of £ 12 million – £15 million.

The group implemented a six-fold increase in the volume of responsible gambling messages sent to our customers planning to “power up” the business with client and colleague welfare stipulated as the highest priority.

In turn, safer ‘guard rails’ gaming was also implemented in a effort to ensure player safety, as William Hill promises to “continue to take decisive action to protect our customers.”

Emitting the updates in the company’s latest financial report for the seventeen week period up to April 28, 2020, the operator divided its update into a pre-coronavirus phase (up to March 10) and an impacted duration (up to April 11 – 28).

Before foreign lockdowns, company total net profit dropped by 5 percent as US operations continued to drive growth with a wagered 26 percent rise in sportsbook amounts and a 30 percent increase overall.

Online International net sales increased 35 percent over the span as a result of good gaming success, including a Spanish launch for its Mr Green company.

William Hill reported a 57 percent fall in group-wide net income caused by a combination of store closures, a decline in sports betting markets, and international coronavirus lockdowns in the period from 11 March to 28 April.

Total net revenue in the US was the biggest hit, falling by 90 percent over the period, and like-for-like retail declining by 85 percent. Online International is said to have benefited from continuing strong growth in gambling, some replacement from sports betting and increased momentum from launched late last year’s product innovations.

William Hill also reports that the online casino will be launched in the second half of the year after announcing an accelerated product growth, closely tracking trends in the US in the nine states where the company has retail operations.

William Hill CEO Ulrik Bengtsson has explained: “William Hill has overcome many challenges in its 86-year history, and I am exceptionally proud of the team and their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have worked hard to protect them, and in turn they have done the same for our customers.

“We reacted quickly to the cancellation of sports activities and the closure of our retail estate. We took immediate measures to save costs, reduce cash outflow and minimise non-essential expenditure by negotiating with our suppliers, cancelling pay rises and executive bonuses and suspending the dividend. We have preserved liquidity and amended the terms of our net debt covenant, leading to significant, balance sheet headroom. This will enable us to continue to invest for growth, most notably in the US, as plans there to roll out sports betting continue apace.

“Our ambition to build a digitally led, internationally diverse business of scale is proving beneficial during the disruption as our international online business has performed very strongly. We have accelerated product developments in the US in particular to ensure we are well positioned when sports activity reopens.

“Our product development teams elsewhere have also excelled themselves during this period of remote working, deploying a range of important new products, most notably a gaming front end to improve navigation and speed for the UK market.

“We remain focused on player safety employing ever more customer protection. We are taking care of our teams, securing as many employment opportunities as possible and we are ready to power up the business as soon as COVID-19 restrictions permit.

“Our strategy for the Company remains a simple one – to win with our customers, build agile collaborative teams, and get things done – execution. We are developing products that we are proud of and that will improve William Hill’s competitiveness for the long term.”