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Flutter flies higher as revenues tumble 'only 32%' since UK and Irish horseracing suspension

In the group's US business, sports revenues declined 46% but were offset by a 200% surge in online gaming

Flutter Entertainment PLC -

Flutter Entertainment PLC (LON:FLTR) has said its sports revenue has declined 46% in the four weeks since the suspension of UK and Irish racing as part of coronavirus lockdowns. 

This was less than the bookmaker expected thanks to the continuation of racing in Australia and the US, while total group revenue since March 16 were only down 32% thanks to strong gambling takings.

READ: Bookies battered as Premier League joins wave of coronavirus cancellations

The company has been impacted by the cancellation of almost all sporting events, from Premier League and Champions League football to tennis and motor racing, with a decline of 65% for the main Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) online business since Irish horseracing was cancelled on March 25.

In the four weeks from when the Irish lockdown began on March 16 to April 14, overall PPB online sales have fallen 32%, while Australia has only declined 7% as retail customers moved online to bet on racing behind closed doors.

The PPB Retail division, which had been contributing 13% of overall revenues, has in that time provided no contribution whatsoever.

In the US a fall of 8% in the four weeks reflects a 46% decline in sports revenue offset by a 200% surge in online casino and poker gaming.

The FTSE 100-listed group generated total revenue of £547mlnIn for the first quarter as a whole, up 16% year-on-year, with sports revenue growing 30% before March 16 and gaming by 27%.

More resilient than expected

Aware of its precarious moral position, Flutter has said that it will endeavour not to rely on government coronavirus furlough schemes and will pay the salaries of all staff from its own financial resources.

It finished the quarter with a net debt position of £240mln and undrawn borrowing facilities and available cash of £460mln.

"We delivered strong customer growth across each of our brands and benefitted from favourable sports results across our sportsbooks,” Flutter chief executive Peter Jackson said in a statement.

“Following the widespread cancellation of sporting events, group revenues have been more resilient than we initially expected.”

Jackson said the merger with Canada’s online poker giant, The Stars Group, which has been approved by both the UK and Irish competition authorities, was expected to complete before the end of June.

Market reaction

Shares in Flutter leapt 11% higher to 8,632p on Friday morning, continuing a rise from near 5,500p last month that has seen them almost recover the ground lost this year. 

“The near-50% decline in sports-related revenue actually feels like something of a result given the cancellation of nearly all live sport,” said AJ Bell's Russ Mould.

“It suggests punters might not be too discriminating in the events they bet on with horse racing continuing in the US and Australia.”

 

Mould said Flutter faces a “very tricky balancing act” in promotion of its gambling offering amid the “looming threat of increased regulation if governments see this is putting household finances under strain”.

Richard Hunter at Interactive Investor saw “a number of positives for the business as a whole and if the performance up until the middle of March can be resumed post-crisis, there is much to go for”.

He said the decision last month to proceed with the dividend in the form of shares rather than cash was “quite an elegant solution to the problem facing so many other companies, who have largely chosen to back away from making any distributions at all for the time being”.

    --Adds share price and broker comment--

 

Quick facts: Flutter Entertainment PLC

Price: 13360 GBX

LSE:FLTR
Market: LSE
Market Cap: £20.71 billion
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