Losses at ukbetting sends share price down

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The Independent Online

Shares in Ukbetting, the online bookmaker and sports websites group, fell to a four- month low yesterday as it reported a loss of £5.7m, compared with £8.8m in 2002.

Shares in Ukbetting, the online bookmaker and sports websites group, fell to a four- month low yesterday as it reported a loss of £5.7m, compared with £8.8m in 2002.

The group said it was on track to improve over the year. and Peter Dubens, the vice-chairman, said: "There is a lot of growth to come. We now have the largest network of sites in Europe. We have come a long way but we are still some way off getting the sites where we want them to be."

Despite the upbeat outlook, investors were disappointed not to see a profit from the company, which has spent the past two years buying up sports content sites such as planetrugby.com, 365football.com and teamtalk.com. The group is now concentrating on squeezing more revenues from the 6.3 million users who visit its sites. Revenues from these information sites, which sell their content to mobile phone companies and other subscribers, more than doubled to £7.7m in 2003 as advertising improved.

The upward trend is continuing, with revenues from its website content up 88 per cent in the first quarter of this year. But Mr Dubens is keen to get more users paying for games and other services, such as downloads and merchandising.

Paul Leyland, an analyst at Seymour Pierce said: "They've got a lot to do to reach profitability. We are slightly cautious until more evidence of organic profitability emerges."

In an increasingly competitive market for online gambling, Ukbetting has added poker and casino games to its sites. Sales rose 39 per cent to £54.5m last year and gaming turnover rose 33 per cent to £46.8m.

But its betting sites, which include Totalbet.com as well as Ukbetting, suffered from poor odds pricing in the first half of the year and punters took too many winnings from the group.

"We have turned this around and our gross win is now 9.6 per cent as we introduced more consistent pricing across our sports-betting book," Mr Dubens said.

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