Ukbetting adds to bookmaking misery with profits warning

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The Independent Online

Ukbetting became the fourth bookmaker in two days to warn that annual earnings will be hit by a recent run of good form among punters.

The Leeds-based company, which owns the sportinglife.com and football365 websites, cautioned that it will now hit only more modest targets set by City experts for the year. Analysts had expected earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of between £1.2m and £2.6m, but the company says it will be about £1.4m.

Peter Dubens, Ukbetting's chairman, said: "In common with other bookmakers, we experienced a very poor run of sports results, and the run continued into November.

"Horse racing in general has been very poor over the past two months, the worst I can remember. It's just that a greater number of favourites than usual have been winning."

The gloomy news sent shares in Ukbetting, which listed on AIM four years ago, tumbling 3.25p to 53.25p, and cast a further pall over the gaming sector. On Thursday, three of the biggest names in bookmaking admitted to having taken a bath at the hands of punters. The Irish bookie Paddy Power was forced to issue a stiff profits warning after paying out far more than expected on a race it sponsored the week before at Cheltenham. Its shares dived by 22 per cent.

Hilton Group - the owner of Ladbrokes' British betting shops - was taken to the cleaners by two or three high-rolling telephone punters. And William Hill trimmed profits targets after results went against it too.

Ukbetting is another sports service that has diversified into poker, which now accounts for 15 per cent of group profits.

About 8.75 million people read the company's stable of sports sites each month. Ukbetting - valued at just north of £51m - relies upon driving these visitors towards its online gambling sites. Yesterday, Ukbetting said 30 per cent more clicked through this month. Registrations are up a quarter in November.

"The revenue from other steams of our business are doing very well," Mr Dubens said. Revenue this year is still likely to be towards the top end of expectations after a boost from the removal of competitor's advertising from its sports sites, the company said. Ad sales are 42 per cent better this year.

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