August 2, 2012 / 6:40 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Ladbrokes to focus on digital strategy in H2

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LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Britain's second-biggest bookmaker Ladbrokes said on Thursday it would focus on its ailing digital business in the second half after profit from that division fell in the first six months of the year.

Overall group operating profit rose 11 percent to 106.9 million pounds ($166.6 million) in the first half, the bookmaker said.

Growth in its British high street business and an improved performance in European Retail and Telephone businesses helped to offset a decline in digital - a growth area for many rivals.

The company had already warned in June that profits from its digital division would fall more than expected in the first half due to a delay in technology upgrades and a poor sportsbook margin. On Monday, it announced that Richard Ames, responsible for trading and IT, was stepping down.

Ames, who has been placed on gardening leave, would get a compensation payment of 506,585 pounds when he leaves the company, Ladbrokes said on Thursday.

The company announced a series of management changes on Thursday to support its digital drive. As part of these, director of IT Mark Grimes would join the Executive Committee.

Ladbrokes, which pulled out of talks to buy online gambling businesses 888 Holdings Plc and Sportingbet Plc last year, had said it would invest 50 million pounds over two years to improve the performance of its internet business, which has lagged that of market leader William Hill Plc.

William Hill, on the other hand, said last week that revenue at its online operation rose 30 percent.

Reporting by Keith Wier; Editing by Paul Sandle,

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