illiam Hill on Wednesday released a trading statement for the fourth quarter ended 29 December 2020. Total net revenue rose 9% in the period, driven by a strong sportsbook result, which climbed by 20%. Despite the positive end to the year, 2020 overall revenues are expected to fall 16% to £1.3 billion (USD $1.81 B), reflecting the disruption caused by lockdowns to sporting events earlier in the year.
The group said that it expected a £30 million year-over-year loss at its retail division due to the challenges of trading at its 1,414 high street betting shops during the pandemic. On the other hand, online revenues rose 5% in the UK and 12% in its international markets after it launched the Swedish online gaming group Mr Green in two new regions. William Hill also benefited from a growth in online gambling once live sporting events returned, with a string of favourable sporting results as well. Sportsbook staking increased 16%.
The planned acquisition of the group by Caesars Entertainment, its joint venture partner in the US, received the necessary support from shareholders back in November and is now expected to complete in the second quarter of 2021, but possibly as early as March 2021. William Hill said Wednesday its net revenues from its US operations had increased nearly a third (32%). The deal threatens to break up the gambling group after Caesars said it planned to sell off William Hill’s UK and European assets. Several bidders have shown interest, including the online gambling company 888.
“2020 was a year like no other," William Hill CEO Ulrik Bengtsson said in a press release. "It tested our agility and flexibility and we delivered, keeping our customers and team safe, whilst materially improving our competitive position through product enhancements and geographical expansion. The offer received for the Group recognises the substantial progress we have made as well as the opportunities and challenges ahead of us. I remain immensely proud of the William Hill team which has been relentless in its focus on delivering a great product and service to our customers, with player safety at its heart. Customer, Team, Execution have been our guiding lights through this unusual year, and they will remain so as we look forward through 2021.”
William Hill said it had repaid the £24.5 million in furlough support it received through the government’s furlough scheme in the first lockdown from March, and did not expect to seek further help to safeguard jobs. The company said its retail staff received 100% of their pay even on furlough.