Online betting firm sees profits jump 6%

GIBRALTAR-based online gaming company, 888.com — which is currently being courted by bookmaking giant Ladbrokes — has reported a 6% increase in operating profit, for 2010, to $262 million (€193.5m).

The company, which has its shares listed on the London Stock Exchange, said yesterday — via a trading update — that it finished 2010 strongly and the current year “has started well”.

Group operating income for the fourth quarter of the year came in at $71m, an 18% increase on the preceding three months.

Customer numbers — for its casino and poker offerings — grew by 71% in the last three months of 2010, alone, driven, according to the company, by product improvement and successful marketing.

“We’re very pleased with the results delivered during the last quarter of 2010.

“Our marketing activities have driven record numbers of players to our sites and growth was achieved across our business lines.

“We’re particularly encouraged by our poker business, which showed 28% sequential growth,” the company said.

With regard to performance since the turn of the year, it added: “Given that our various business initiatives are progressing as planned, we expect to grow the business further during the year.”

The company also confirmed that discussions with Ladbrokes are ongoing and that a further announcement will be made “as and when appropriate”.

Recent reports had suggested that Ladbrokes was about to end talks with 888 after having an initial bid rejected for being too low in value.

Ladbrokes first attempted to buy 888.com in 2006, but failed. It renewed its interest in December with a £240m (€285m) bid.

If successful, the takeover would mark Ladbrokes’ first major international (it has expanded through small acquisitions in Ireland in the past few years) purchase since it became independent from the Hilton group in 2005.

Numerous betting/gaming companies — including Paddy Power and William Hill — are due to report 2010 results early next month, with most pointing to a strong finish to the year.

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