World Cup a winner for Wm Hill but horses lose

William Hill, Britain's largest bookmaker, raked in more than £30 million from this year's World Cup, helping to offset a dire horseracing season.

Unveiling its interim results, the firm said it was on track to meet full-year forecasts after its "best ever" World Cup. It made 32.2m in gross winnings from the football tournament - 19.3m of which came through in the first half of its year.

Spain's victory generated a profitable return for bookmakers after the European champions' opening defeat to Switzerland deterred many punters. Bookies also benefited from patriotic bets on a poor England team, as well as Brazil's loss to Holland in the quarter-finals and 2006 finalists France and Italy's exit at the group stage.

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However, it saw relatively poor horseracing results, with a comparatively weak Grand National in April followed by a loss-making Royal Ascot festival in June.

Earlier this month, rival Ladbrokes reported a 5 per cent increase in first-half operating profit as a boost to trading from the World Cup offset unfavourable horseracing results.

William Hill, which operates more than 2,350 betting shops in Britain and Ireland and takes over one million bets a day, said earnings before interest, tax, and amortisation (Ebita) rose 1 per cent to 135.6m.

In the seven weeks since the half year, net revenues across William Hill rose 26 per cent, up 20 per cent thanks to the tail-end of the World Cup and ongoing strength in gaming machine turnover.

The average forecast for full-year Ebita stands at 258m, according to a poll of 11 analysts.

However, chief executive Ralph Topping said the bookmaker was cautious over the outlook for the remainder of 2010 and 2011 amid pressures on consumer spending.

"We are on track to deliver against the board's expectations for the full year, but we remain cautious moving into 2011 given the ongoing consumer uncertainty," he said.

Shares closed the day down 0.2p at 166.7p.