LONDON, April 30 British bookmaker Ladbrokes said it would maintain its dividend at last year's level despite a big drop in first quarter operating profit.
Ladbrokes, Britain's second largest bookmaker, reported operating profit of 18.4 million pounds ($31 million) in the first three months of 2014, down from 37.4 million a year ago.
In common with other bookmakers, Ladbrokes has been hit by big payouts on two weekends when many of the top soccer teams won. It is also having to invest in upgrading its online service to try to make up lost ground on larger rival William Hill .
A series of profit downgrades over the past two years have piled pressure on Chief Executive Richard Glynn.
"Our financial performance remains consistent with our expectations at the time of our annual results announcement in February," Glynn said in a statement.
"We now have in place all of the operational infrastructure from which to drive growth in H2 and beyond," he added.
Ladbrokes said it was committed to a dividend payout this year of at least 8.9p per share, in line with 2013.
($1 = 0.5936 British Pounds) (Writing by Keith Weir, 44 20 7542 8022)