* Ladbrokes vows to fix online in H2 after profit halves
* Overall H1 operating profit rises 11 percent
* Bookmaker plays down Olympics impact
By Keith Weir
LONDON, Aug 2 Ladbrokes, Britain's
second-biggest bookmaker, pledged on Thursday to fix its ailing
digital operations where profits halved in the first six
months of 2012 in contrast to a strong online performance by its
Its British high street business and an improved performance
in European retail and telephone operations helped to fuel an 11
percent rise in group operating profit to 106.9 million pounds
($166.6 million) in the first half, just ahead of forecasts.
Shares in Ladbrokes added 1.8 pence to 156.5 pence by 0810
Profit from digital - comprising online, tablet and mobile -
fell to 15 million pounds from 29.7 million, leaving it trailing
rivals such as market leader William Hill and a host of
new market entrants which have expanded in that area.
The company warned in June that profits from digital would
fall more than expected because of a delay in technology
upgrades and poor margins on sports betting.
Those problems came to a head this week when the company
removed Richard Ames, responsible for trading and IT. Ames has
been placed on gardening leave and will leave the company in
November with a pay off of more than 500,000 pounds.
Technology Director Mark Grimes is joining the company board
as part of the increased focus on digital.
"We have now got a very clear programme to deliver the new
technologies over the next six months," Chief Executive Richard
Glynn told Reuters.
The company plans to launch its new online sportsbook in the
fourth quarter and will then make it available to mobile
customers. It has been investing more than 50 million pounds on
technology over the past two years and expects to start to see a
payback from 2013.
NO OLYMPIC GOLD
Ladbrokes pulled out of talks to buy online gambling
businesses 888 Holdings Plc and Sportingbet Plc
Glynn said the company was largely focused on its own
business but did not rule out an acquisition if an opportunity
came along at the right price.
He played down the likely impact of the Olympics which are
being held in London at the moment, noting that many sports in
the Games were not big gambling markets.
"Gambling is not a natural bedfellow of the Olympics," he
said. "It's really not the same as the Euros (soccer tournament)
or the English Premier League season."
Bookmakers have generally been cautious on the Olympics but
William Hill said last week it expected the bigger sports to
Glynn said revenues at the Euro 2012 soccer tournament,
where England lost in the quarter-final to Italy, had been
slightly lower than anticipated.
"Our gross win was around 9 million pounds on a little bit
Manchester City's last-minute goal to win the English
Premier League in May was not only painful for supporters of
runners-up and local rivals Manchester United. City's winner
cost Ladbrokes 3 million pounds, Glynn said.
(Reporting by Keith Wier; Editing by Paul Sandle and Mark