Blue-chip bookmakers William Hill PLC (LON:WMH), GVC Holdings PLC (LON:GVC), and Paddy Power Betfair PLC (LON:PPB) received a boost on Monday as multiple brokers turned positive with upgrades and initiations.
In a note to clients, analysts at Shore Capital upgraded FTSE 250 William Hill to a ‘buy’ from ‘hold’, saying they expected 2019 to be the “nadir” of earnings for the firm as its underlying profits continued to grow, supported by its acquisition of Swedish gaming company Mr Green & Co and a proposed reshaping of the UK retail offering.
The broker also said that the group had seen “an encouraging start to US sports betting” and that the opportunity in the market “outweighs regulatory risk”.
The sentiment was echoed by broker Jefferies, which initiated William Hill at a ‘buy’ with a 230p price target on the grounds that the increased visibility of the US sports betting partnership was a “re-rating catalyst”.
Jefferies’ analysts added that the “financial pain” would hit in 2019 and 2020, although this was now largely reflected in consensus estimates for the firm.
In a trading statement in January, William Hill said it would “remodel” its in-store offering after blaming a decline in footfall on Britain’s high streets for a 15% slump in annual profits.
The firm has also moved into the US to seek growth opportunities, signing a partnership deal last year with multi-billion-dollar casino chain Eldorado Resorts.
Jefferies also initiated bookies GVC and Paddy Power Betfair with ‘buy’ ratings as analysts saw re-ratings now that a “regulation-driven downgrade cycle” was largely complete.
For GVC, which was also pegged with a 1,100p target price, Jefferies said the FTSE 100 firm was “well placed to take advantage of Online gaming growth” while its joint venture with Las Vegas casino operator MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM) “should position GVC well to exploit the legalisation of sports betting in the USA”.
“We think the share price fall through 2H18 reflects regulatory-driven downgrades which we believe are now mostly complete. Benefits from recent corporate activity should partially offset regulatory headwinds,” analysts said, adding that the recent share price decline meant the valuation was “too low”.
Meanwhile, Paddy Power was given a 7,900p price target as the broker said the group had “a broad spread of leading positions, both online and retail, in regulated gambling markets”.
The company was also suffering from a low valuation following a share price decline, Jefferies said, adding that there was currently “little value attributed to the US upside”, more specifically a deal to merge Paddy’s US operation with fantasy sports firm FanDuel in May.
In late-morning trading Monday, William Hill shares were up 0.3% at 180.7p, while GVC was down 0.15% at 663.5p and Paddy Power was up 0.5% at 6,410p.