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GVC jumps as 2018 update comes in ahead of expectations

The FTSE 100 betting and gaming group said its underlying earnings (EBITDA) for the year would be between £750mln-£755mln, ahead of the current market consensus of £739mln
Online gambling
GVC's performance was boosted by a 19% jump in revenues from its online gaming businesses

Shares in GVC Holdings PLC (LON:GVC) jumped in early deals Thursday after a full year update forecast earnings would be ahead of market consensus.

The FTSE 100 betting and gaming group, whose brands include Ladbrokes and Coral, said its underlying earnings (EBITDA) for the year would be between £750mln-£755mln, ahead of the current market consensus of £739mln.

READ: GVC says FOBT legislation enactment means contingent value right payment to shareholders to be cancelled

Over the year, GVC said net gaming revenues (NGR) had risen 9%, highlighting strong growth in its online division of 19%.

Within online, NGR for the group’s sports brands was up 20% year-on-year, while games brands grew 16% and business-to-business (B2B) 17%.

The European retail segment jumped 16% YOY, while UK retail was the only outlier posting a decline in NGR of 3%.

The growth figures had been boosted by what the company said was a “strong” final quarter in which total NGR had risen 5% and online NGR 15%.

GVC said the online growth was “very strong” despite a high sports gross win margin in the comparative period last year.

European retail NGR declined 7% in the quarter, which the company attributed to a lower over-the-counter (OTC) gross win margin for its Eurobet Retail business, which was down 7.4 percentage points on an exceptionally high-level last year.

UK retail for the quarter was down 3% on the prior year.

Kenneth Alexander, GVC’s chief executive, said the “strong momentum” from the third quarter had continued into the fourth, adding that the company was “materially outperforming” the market and taking market share in all its major territories.

“As the Group carries this momentum forward into the new year, and starts to deliver the opportunities provided by both the Ladbrokes Coral integration and our sports-betting joint-venture in the US with MGM Resorts, the Board is confident that the Group is very well placed for a successful 2019", he added.

READ: GVC shares slip as Ladbrokes comes under fire for problem gambler hush money

The update, which comes ahead of the group’s full-year results on 5 March, may bring some comfort to shareholders after GVC in December moved to cancel a contingent value right (CVR) payment on the back of the UK government’s decision to cut the maximum staking levels on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) to £2.

This was preceded by a headache for subsidiary Ladbrokes, which found itself in hot water over a scandal involving hush money payments to the victims of a problem gambler.

Results “a timely reminder” of credentials, says analyst

George Salmon, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that amidst major regulatory changes in the UK and US, the update had provided “a timely reminder of GVC’s credentials”.

“Market share is rising in all major geographies, and a better than expected fourth quarter means profit forecasts have been upgraded. With the news coming not long after GVC also raised forecasts for cost-saving around the Ladbrokes Coral integration, there’s a lot to like about how the group is performing.”

Salmon added that the performance would raise hopes that GVC could “repeat the trick” in the recently opened up US market, although uncertainty in the UK market meant investor sentiment remained “reasonably cautious”.

GVC shares were up 1.9% at 686p.

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