taff at Ladbrokes are facing a pay freeze until next year while the group is also closing a call centre in Liverpool, which employs 263 people. Pre-tax profits for last year were down 28% to us$ 301.1 million as the firm suffered from recession and an historically low number of draws in football fixtures at the start of the season, which is bad news for bookies.
Chairman Peter Erskine said he recognised the "likely challenges" ahead, but added: "We have strengthened our balance sheet and are taking decisive cost actions which will leave us well positioned when the upturn comes."
Although the weather put paid to 59 races, Ladbrokes saw a strong early contribution from big-spending high-rollers in January - who contributed us$ 13.5 million in operating profits - and a lower gross profits tax bill.
As well as cutting costs, the group is accelerating its store openings, investing in its online presence and putting pressure on rivals such as William Hill by improving its offering of lucrative gaming machines.
The group says early results from the trial of new machines are promising despite the potential for initial disruption. "We believe our initiatives to close the gap with the competition will prove to be a significant revenue driver over the medium term," Ladbrokes added.
Merrill Lynch analyst Ian Rennardson said the worst news was over for the bookmaker, and highlighted the decent beginning to the year made by the volatile high-rollers business.