LONDON (Reuters) - Bwin.party Digital, the world’s biggest listed online gaming company, shrugged off economic worries to post a rise in third-quarter revenue, helped by the launch of new games in Italy and strong growth in its casino division.
The Gibraltar-based company, whose brands include bwin, PartyPoker.com, PartyCasino.com and Foxy Bingo, said on Tuesday total net revenue grew 3 percent to 201.1 million euros (276 million) in the third quarter.
Bwin.party, which was formed by the merger of Austria’s Bwin and PartyGaming earlier this year, said its third-quarter revenue was boosted by the launch of games such as roulette and blackjack in Italy after the government opened up the market for casino table games and cash poker in July.
The company, which offers up to 30,000 bets daily across more than 90 sports, said it had also benefited from a bar on U.S. poker website Full Tilt Poker in April following charges of illegal gambling.
Bwin.party said current trading was robust and in line with management’s expectations.
“We expected our business to be resilient but not immune to the recession, and I think that’s where we are today,” Chief Financial Officer Martin Weigold told Reuters.
“There are certain markets that have been particularly hit by the financial crisis ... for us Greece is the one that stands out. However, even Greece shows quarter-on-quarter growth, but if you looked at the year-on-year movement, we have seen a double-digit decline,” Weigold said.
Co-Chief Executive Jim Ryan said a possible Greek exit from the euro zone would have a limited impact on the business.
“If in fact they did leave it would just be a function of the consumers in Greece playing with a different currency; they’d still continue to use the service,” he said.
The gaming industry has traditionally been a bulwark for the entertainment sector during periods of economic weakness.
Rival 888 reported a 42 percent rise in third-quarter sales last week and said it expected 2011 earnings to be significantly ahead of market estimates as British consumers stay at home, watching TV and gambling online amid an economic slowdown.
Shares in Bwin.party, which have shed around 33 percent of their value since the merger, rose 1 percent to 136 pence by 1000 GMT (5 a.m. ET) on Tuesday.
“Bwin.party’s third-quarter (statement) ... shows good progress across the group,” Evolution Securities analyst James Hollins said in a note.
Hollins, who has an “add” rating on the stock, highlighted the company’s brand resonance in key European countries and the long-term U.S. upside.
Bwin.party’s average daily revenue climbed 8 percent on the previous quarter, while the number of daily average players fell 4 percent, in part because player numbers were boosted last year by the soccer World Cup.
“The elephant in the room remains German legislation, the company’s single largest market (around 22 percent),” Daniel Stewart analyst Michael Campbell said.
In September Germany’s highest civil court upheld a ban that bars private-sector companies from operating online gambling sites.
Bwin.party said it was working with German states on a regulatory framework and said it hoped to secure a license in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, where gambling-friendly laws were passed in September.
($1 = 0.727 Euros)
Editing by Adveith Nair and David Holmes