Online surge softens Covid blow for betting giant GVC

Ladbrokes Coral owner GVC Holdings said it had produced an "encouraging performance" in the first half of the year, despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The company revealed that group underlying earnings were down five per cent at £348.6 million as it unveiled its interim results on Thursday, and forecast that its full-year Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) was expected to be between £720m-£740m. Profit after tax was flat year-on-year at £2.1m.

GVC said online growth in the first half of the year was very strong, despite the disruption to the sporting calendar, with total net gaming revenue (NGR) up 19 per cent on the previous year.

It added that the company's UK retail estate had "performed strongly" until betting shops were forced to shut their doors due to lockdown but with stores closed for the majority of the second quarter like-for-like NGR in the half was down 50 per cent.

GVC said results in horseracing and football had been "favourable", adding that: "The Cheltenham Festival was the last major event before lockdown with results well ahead of 2019."

There was no further update on the widened HM Revenue & Customs investigation into GVC's former online gambling operation in Turkey, which was announced in July.

New chief executive Shay Segev, who replaced Kenny Alexander last month, said: "Given the unprecedented trading environment, GVC has delivered an encouraging performance in the first half.

"It underlines the strength of our diversified business model and the expertise, adaptability and dedication of our people. These results show that we have a strong foundation."

Segev said GVC had four main priorities, "leading the US market, organic growth, expanding into new markets and being the most responsible operator in our industry".

He added: "Our industry-leading technology will enable us to grow responsibly and sustainably, using our data-driven customer insights to ensure all of our customers have an enjoyable and safe experience while gaming with us. That is how we'll deliver greater and more sustainable value for all our stakeholders."

GVC shares were up by more than two per cent at 803p in early trading.

Goodbody Stockbrokers gaming and leisure analyst Gavin Kelleher said: "The underlying performance in online remains very encouraging, and UK retail continues to show positive signs of recovery."