Bookie William Hill has pledged to spend millions of pounds ramping up its social media presence to entice new customers after a flurry of punter-friendly results knocked profits.
Chief executive Philip Bowcock expects to plough almost half of the £40m in cost savings the company is planning to achieve this year back into marketing with a particular focus on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Its #YourOdds initiative – where gamblers can ask for odds on a specific bet via Twitter – has seen 2m bets placed since it was launched at the beginning of the year, he revealed.
Mr Bowcock said this type of betting engaged a younger audience than its traditional retail shop clientele adding that social media campaigns alongside its sponsorship of the Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko fight had helped improve customer numbers.
The marketing pledge came as the group suffered a 7pc drop in pre-tax profits to £93.5m for the six months to June 27 on the back of revenues of £837m, up nearly 3pc on the comparable period. In spite of this, investors sent the shares up as much as 11pc in early trading to 284p.
While the amount of money bet by punters rose in both its online division and its stores, a host of customer-friendly football results – notably Chelsea and Celtic’s winning streaks – increased payouts for the firm and thus weighed on earnings.
Analysts at Cenkos said it was the “first time we can recall” that William Hill’s gross win margin – the amount it has won versus payouts – in its shops was behind that of rival Ladbrokes.
But brokerage Peel Hunt said the results were better than it had anticipated and so would be reversing downgrades in its profit expectations for William Hill made just weeks ago.
“Today’s results show improved momentum in the business with the implication of market share gains,” Peel Hunt said. “In addition, the share price is at a low point from which we believe it can rally.”
Elsewhere, Mr Bowcock said the company would “engage as appropriate” if a merger or acquisition deal came along but it was not something he was actively focusing on. The company spurned the advances of Canadian rival Amaya and a joint approach by online betting firm 888 and bingo and casino operator Rank Group last year.
Source: Google News