Ladbroke closes 60 shops in Belgium

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LADBROKE GROUP is to close 60 loss-making betting shops in Flanders, axing about 60 full-time jobs, because of the increase in Belgian betting duty, writes Patrick Hosking.

The closures - more than one-third of the 170-shop bookmaking chain in Flanders - will save 100m Belgian francs (pounds 1.8m) a year, Ladbroke said. It blamed the rise in Belgian betting duty in 1990 from 11 per cent to 15 per cent.

The partial withdrawal from Belgium coincides with a hefty push into Germany. In June, Ladbroke announced plans for a Berlin mega-bookie's with cinema screen and 80 televisions. If the DM3m (pounds 1.1m) pilot project is successful, Ladbroke plans to establish a chain in Germany. Its application to open a betting shop in Dusseldorf was rejected in 1989.

Operating profits from Ladbroke's betting division worldwide fell 30 per cent to pounds 64.5m in 1991. Turnover and the number of bets placed also fell slightly.

Ladbroke is experimenting elsewhere in Europe. Its Texas Homecare division is opening DIY shops in Spain with a local partner. Its Hilton International arm recently paid the Treuhandanstalt privatisation agency DM300m for a hotel in the east of Berlin.