Playtech lifted by partnership with William Hill

LONDON Thu Feb 7, 2013 3:34am EST

LONDON (Reuters) - A record final quarter from its joint venture with bookmaker William Hill (WMH.L) helped to fuel a 51 percent rise in annual gross income for online gaming software company Playtech (PTEC.L).

The future of the William Hill Online (WHO) venture is in focus because the betting firm is looking to buy out the 29 percent stake held by Playtech.

Banks will complete a valuation at the end of the month and William Hill will then have to decide whether to exercise its option to take full control. Analysts have said the stake could be worth up to 400 million pounds ($626 million).

Playtech's share of profit from WHO rose 71 percent to 15 million euros in the final quarter of 2012, as the company reported overall gross income of just under 100 million euros for the three months to end-December, a 26 percent increase.

"Every quarter we are asked whether this momentum can continue and the track record shows this is sustainable," Playtech Chief Executive Weizer told Reuters, saying the business had been helped by strong marketing and the strength of the William Hill brand.

Playtech believes that William Hill's agreed acquisition of online gambling company Sportingbet, SBT.L which will see it expand into Australia, will further enhance the value of the joint venture.

"As a result of the impressive performance in Q4 and since the beginning of the year, the board is very comfortable with market expectations for the full year and looks forward to 2013 with confidence," Weizer said.

Gross income for 2012 totaled 368.1 million euros ($498.3 million), comprising revenues of 317.5 million and a 50.6 million share of profit from William Hill Online.

Playtech shares rose 1.5 percent to 489 pence at 0828 GMT, continuing a strong run they have had since the start of 2012, when they traded at around 240 pence.

($1 = 0.7387 euros)

($1 = 0.6389 British pounds)

(Reporting by Keith Weir, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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