(Adds shares, plans for foreign expansion)
By Keith Weir
LONDON Aug 1 Leading British bookmaker William
Hill said the soccer World Cup had boosted revenues in
the first half of the year, with growing numbers of its
customers betting on matches online.
In his first day in the job on Friday, new Chief Executive
James Henderson said his priorities were to grow the business
internationally, develop its technology and profit from the
increasing number of ways in which its customers can now bet.
Betting on the World Cup in June and July was up by 80
percent on comparable figures from the last time the tournament
was played in 2010.
The World Cup helped to offset the impact of unfavourable
sports results earlier in the year when bookmakers had to make
big payouts on weekends when a number of favourites won,
particularly in English Premier League soccer.
Revenue rose 7 percent to 805 million pounds ($1.36 billion)
in the 26 weeks to July 1, while operating profit dipped by 2
percent to 177 million. Both figures were slightly ahead of
Shares dipped 1.2 percent to 348.2p by 0730 GMT.
HARD ACT TO FOLLOW
Henderson, who has been with the company for 29 years, faces
the tough task of replacing the highly regarded Ralph Topping.
Topping had been with William Hill for more than four
decades, serving as CEO in the last six years.
He won plaudits for an international expansion which has
taken the company into Australia, the United States, Spain and
Italy and developing the online business.
That expansion has seen William Hill stride clear of rival
Ladbrokes to establish itself as the biggest company in
Henderson said he planned to build on what Topping had done
rather than changing strategy.
"I will be looking hard at how we can continue to create
shareholder value in developing a focused but internationally
orientated gambling group," Henderson said.
The industry is facing financial and regulatory pressures in
Britain where the government is tightening controls on betting
shops and increasing taxes on both online gambling and high
stakes gaming machines.
($1 = 0.5925 British Pounds)
(Reporting by Keith Weir; editing by James Davey)