Paddy Power saw its profits tumble 20 per cent in the first half of the year as football and racing punters took the Irish bookmaker to the cleaners.
Pre-tax profits at the Dublin-based firm fell to €61.6 million (£48.9m) in the six months to 30 June as favourites won English Premier League football matches in January and March and racing fans backed winners at the Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot. Revenues slipped 7 per cent from a year ago to €396.5m.
However, the group said it enjoyed a “cracking” World Cup, which saw it add 148,000 online customers during the tournament in Brazil and attract €198m in stakes, 130 per cent up on the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
The firm has about 300 shops across the UK, having opened 33 sites during the six-month period. Despite a recent hike in taxes on gaming machines, it plans to add up to 40 more in the coming year “given the strength of customer demand”.
Paddy Power chief executive Patrick Kennedy said football punters had “dream weekends” in January and March, when favourites in the Premier League won 64 per cent of their games, compared to 53 per cent on average. Over the first half of the year, favourite horses in UK and Irish racing won 37 per cent of races, against an average of 35 per cent during 2010 and 2013.
Kennedy added: “The punter-friendly results in football and racing, which impacted the gross win percentage in the initial six months of 2014, failed to put a halt to our gallop with strong underlying performance and accelerating top line momentum delivered in the period.
“The second half has started well, with good stakes growth and a rebound in sports results.”
Shareholders are due to receive an interim dividend of 50 cents on 26 September, an increase of 11 per cent on last year’s payout.