Growth moderates at William Hill, but Grand National was 'major success'

High Street bookie William Hill saw growth rates moderate in the first quarter after a strong start but said that the Grand National after the quarter-end was a 'major success' for the firm.

High Street bookie William Hill saw growth rates moderate in the first quarter after a strong start but said that the Grand National after the quarter-end was a 'major success' for the firm.

Shares were up 2.71% at 401.2p in early trading on Friday.

Group net revenue grew by 15% in the three months to April 2nd, a slowdown from the 20% growth seen in the first seven weeks of the financial year (as reported in the 2012 results last month).

Chief Executive Ralph Topping highlighted this as a "successful start" to 2013 after William Hill completed two significant transactions during the period: the company spent a combined £900m on Sportingbet's Australian operations and buying the 29% minority interest in William Hill Online (WHO). It was part funded by a £374m rights issue which came after an impressive 2012 performance.

WHO delivered 21% growth in net revenue in the first quarter, down from 29% growth in the first seven weeks. Retail net revenue was up 8.0%.

Topping admitted that results from Cheltenham weren't as good as last year. However, after the end of the first quarter, "Auroras Encore made the Grand National a major success for William Hill, even beating our record win achieved on the race in 2009 when Mon Mome romped home at 100-1."

Both events were said to have been "significant attractions" for mobile betters with the William Hill app being downloaded 45,000 times on Grand National day and 51,000 times during the Cheltenham Festival, "putting us at the top of the downloads league for both events".

Topping said: "Mobile remains a high priority and is now a major contributor to Sportsbook's continued growth. We have beaten two of our three Sportsbook and mobile targets ahead of schedule and are focusing on making mobile more than 40% of Sportsbook stakes before the end of this year."

Meanwhile, he said that the company still aims to increase its online market share (currently at 15%) and is making "significant investments" in marketing, technology and people.

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