Foley steps down as betting chief

Conor Foley has stood down as chief executive of international spread-betting firm Worldspreads with immediate effect and has resigned from the board of the company he co-founded 12 years ago.

He will retain his position as the company’s largest shareholder, remaining “fully supportive of the group’s strategy and expansion plans”.

Mr Foley founded Worldspreads with Brian O’Neill in Dublin in 2000. It specialises in financial spread-betting and online share trading services. Nine years after that, Mr O’Neill headed a management buyout of the group’s Irish operations, with Mr Foley going on to head Worldspreads from its London base.

The company said yesterday that it is in negotiations with Roger Hynes, former managing director of London-based subsidiary company Worldspreads Ltd, over becoming interim chief executive.

Lindsay McNeile, the group’s non-executive chairman, will become executive chairman of the entire group in the meantime. Mr Foley’s departure follows the resignation of chief financial officer, Niall O’Kelly, at the end of last month.

Meanwhile, Goodbody Stockbrokers has reiterated its “buy” recommendation on the Paddy Power stock, saying that the business has grown to such an extent that not even the worst that this week’s Cheltenham festival might throw at it could hurt it too much.

The company’s growing exposure to the gaming world through its online poker and similar services, growth in other sports and its continuing overseas expansion means “the outcome of results at Cheltenham is of less significance to overall group profitability, than it has been in the past,” according to Goodbody’s Gavin Kelleher.

The company’s Australian acquisition is already bearing fruit. It is already in France, Canada and Bulgaria and last week announced a pending entry to the Italian market.

Last week’s news of the company’s imminent €6m move into the Italian market coincided with another strong set of annual financial results — 2011 seeing the company grow pre-tax profits by 16% to €121.2m, earnings per share by 26% and net revenue by 17%, to €499m.

“Cheltenham results can go either way. We view them as one-off events and they have no significance to our positive investment thesis. In addition, while the Sprinter Sacre money- back special [on all losing bets from the horse winning Monday’s Arkle Trophy] has a cost, we believe the group’s track record highlights such specials help it to drive industry-leading customer acquisition,” said Mr Kelleher.


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