* Q1 op profit up 3.9 pct to 50.4 mln stg
* UK retail sales up 9 pct
* Says digital unit improving
LONDON, April 19 Britain's second-biggest
bookmaker Ladbrokes posted a 3.9 percent rise in
first-quarter profit, boosted by strong growth at its retail
operations, and said its online business was showing signs of
Ladbrokes, which has around 2,100 shops in Britain, on
Thursday reported an operating profit of 50.4 million pounds
($80.8 million) in the three months to the end of March on
revenues 8.9 percent higher.
The company said net revenues at its British retail
businesses grew 9 percent, helped in part, by favourable results
at the recent Cheltenham horse racing festival.
Ladbrokes, which pulled out of talks to buy online gambling
businesses 888 and Sportingbet during the last
year, said net revenue at its digital division grew 5.9 percent
in the quarter, boosted by good growth in online sports betting.
Profit at the digital unit fell largely due to a 50 million
pounds two-year investment programme the company has embarked on
to improve the performance of its internet business, which has
lagged that of rival William Hill..
"We are continuing to deliver on our trading and digital
milestones with further developments expected in the coming
months," Chief Executive Richard Glynn said.
"We are confident of delivering digital profit growth during
the second half of the year as the benefits from our investments
Earlier this year Ladbrokes reported a less than expected
0.4 percent fall in 2011 operating profit.
Shares in Ladbrokes, which have risen a fifth in the last
three months, closed at 162.8 pence on Wednesday, valuing the
company at around 1.5 billion pounds.