Ladbrokes Coral has defied the “sporting gods” to remain on course for a rise in profits despite what the bookmaking major branded a “savage” December for football and horseracing results.
The company, spawned from the £2.3 billion marriage of Ladbrokes and Gala Coral in October, revealed that a leap in internet revenues helped it weather a challenging end to 2016 when a flurry of short-odds favourites triumphed.
Ladbrokes Coral said it was hit by its worst week of the year for football last month, with nine of 11 domestic favourites winning over two days and all four of the top Premier League teams winning on Boxing Day.
In horseracing, the two feature races at Kempton Park on Boxing Day were won by the favourites, with further wins by favourites in Ireland and Wales.
Rival gambling group William Hill also blamed the string of favourites winning in December when it last week revealed a £20 million hit to its profits.
Ladbrokes Coral said: “December will ultimately be remembered for a savage end to the year thanks to the major Christmas race meetings and a bleak set of football results around the holiday period. Whilst not quite as bad as 2014 it was a very disappointing end to the year.”
However, chief executive Jim Mullen hailed what he said was an encouraging start to the life of the newly merged business as its 2016 profits remain on track to meet a forecast range of between £275m and £285m.
Proforma 2015 earnings for the two separate businesses would have been around £235 million, Ladbrokes Coral said.
Mullen added: “While the sporting gods did not look favourably on us in the period, it is pleasing to report that the business continued to perform well.”
Ladbrokes Coral saw digital net revenues leap 18 per cent in the final three months of the year, offsetting a poor performance from its high street shops where net revenues slid 4 per cent.
Chelsea’s string of victories in December, ended by a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham in January, saw punters cash in at the expense of Britain’s bookmakers.
Ladbrokes Coral added that its run of football bad luck was aggravated as only six of the 58 Premier League football fixtures in that month finished in a draw. That is less than half the historical average.
One leisure analyst said: “Overall, a decent performance.” The group’s shares closed up 3.2 per cent at 128.5p.