William Hill signs Spain deal

London (Reuters) – Bookmaker William Hill reported a 30 percent rise in first-half profits on Tuesday and said it had signed a joint venture deal to provide sports betting in Spain.

Underlying profit rose 29.8 percent to 160 million pounds in the six months to the end of June, compared with 123.3 million a year earlier.

„William Hill has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Spanish gaming group Codere,“ it said. „The parties plan to create a joint venture to develop a sports betting business in Spain.“

William Hill shares rose 2.6 percent to 606 pence by 8:37 a.m., valuing the group at around 2.2 billion pounds.

„These results show a return to form from William Hill after several periods of poor sports results,“ said analysts at Citigroup.

The group said it had completed 167 million pounds of its planned 200 to 300 million share buyback programme and would increase the size of the buyback to about 320 to 400 million.

Its revenues from bets taken at its William Hill betting shops fell 1.3 percent, but rose 1.1 percent at the shops it recently acquired from Stanley Leisure.

The betting shops were boosted by electronic gaming machines, known as FOBTs, which grew revenues by 27 percent at the Stanley shops.

William Hill said the World Cup generated revenues of 17.5 million pounds.

In the latest four weeks, revenues increased by 13.3 percent, but this was in line with management expectations as the period included the completion of the World Cup and some weak comparators for 2005.

The interim dividend was increased 18.9 percent to 7.25 pence per share.