William Hill worth a punt after better start to the second half

Also covered. Taylor Wimpey, Amur Minerals, Ascent Resources

Fixed odds betting terminals
William Hill is back in the game

Bookie William Hill PLC (LON:WMH) was a winner with retail-focused brokers this morning as it upgraded profits guidance.

The bookmaker said full-year operating profits should come in at the top end of forecasts.

Nicholas Hyett, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said William Hill looks as if it has gone back to concentrating on its knitting.

“Having considered mergers with what feels like every other gaming company around, William Hill finally seem to be knuckling down to the job of turning the core business around. The online business is back in growth, efficiency savings have been identified and the self-service terminal roll-out is complete,” Hyett said.

“The group has also announced a revamped board this morning. Former Coral and Betfair execs bring in industry knowhow, and Tesco’s Mark Brooker an increased focus on customers,” he added.

In Hyett’s view, it is good to see William Hill betting on the core business again rather than “rolling the dice on big strategic moves that have so far failed to pay out”.

Ian Forrest at The Share Centre said William Hill is “back in the game” after a poor first half.

“Investors will be watching closely for potential merger and acquisition activity as the gambling sector consolidates. William Hill has abandoned recent merger talks with Canadian online gaming group Amaya and has also rejected a three-way merger proposal from 888 Holdings and Rank Group,” Forrest noted.

The Share Centre rates the bookie as a higher-risk ‘buy’, due to the potential for further growth in mobile wagers, expansion into overseas markets and the prospect of further efficiencies within the business.

House builder Taylor Wimpey PLC (LON:TW.) said trading continued to be strong in the second half of the year, although Liberum Capital Markets noticed the growth in the sales rate was down a little compared to the prior year.

It thinks the shares are cheap, but it prefers Persimmon PLC (LON:PSN) in the sector. Hold ‘em if you’ve got ‘em, is Liberum’s view on Taylor Wimpey.

SP Angel, the nominated advisor for mine developer Amur Minerals PLC (LON:AMC), has welcomed the news that the access road to the company’s Kun-Manie road will cost less than originally envisaged.

Amur updated this morning on its plans for a 316km-long road from Kun-Manie to the rail depot.

“Road access is one of the major project capex components along with processing plant infrastructure, mining equipment and power supply solution. A major cost saving on road construction budget in US$ terms is a welcome news with the company planning further works to finalise the route and narrow cost estimates range,” SP Angel noted.

Ascent Resources PLC (LON:AST) caught a break last week when it was told it won’t have to carry out a full environmental impact assessment prior to installing a new processing facility at the Petišovci gas project in Slovenia.

“With the Slovenian Environmental Agency deciding that Ascent Resources will not need to complete a full environmental impact assessment at the Petišovci Project, the company now expects the IPPC Permit to be awarded sometime in 2017. Had the Environmental Agency not taken such a commercial stance then it could have delayed the Project’s development by around a year,” noted house broker Northland Capital Partners.

“Ascent is continuing to advanced towards commencing untreated gas production on a smaller scale using existing infrastructure in Q117, this is not reliant on the IPPC Permit - required for the larger operation that entails the construction of a new gas treatment plant,” Northland explained.

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