Sportingbet Looks to LSE Listing as Dividends Reinstated

7th October 2009 8:24 am GMT

As a result of significant growth during the last financial year, Sportingbet plc said Wednesday that it will reinstate the payment of dividends for the first time since the closure of its U.S facing business in 2006, while also announcing its intention to move from London's AIM Market to the official listing of the London Stock Exchange, providing the basis for the company's continued growth and success.

The company said this morning that net gaming revenues (NGR) increased by 13% to £163.6 million for the year ended July 31st, with total amounts wagered up 17% to £1,577.2 million.

Sportingbet's European sports betting business saw NGR grow by 21% to £82.7 million following strong growth in the company's core markets of Greece and Spain, with amounts wagered up 21% to £906.6 million. The Australian sports betting business saw NGR increase 9% to £20.8 million, from amounts wagered of £610.5 million, up 13% year-on-year, with recently imposed gambling taxes amounting to £6.7 million during the year.

The company's casino and games offering contributed a further £41.3 million in NGR, up 12% year-on-year, while poker revenues declined 6% to £18.8 million. Casino and games now account for 24% of Sportingbet's total revenues, with poker now contributing only 12%.

Total administrative expenses fell marginally to £141.7 million as a result of lower exceptional items and share option charges than in the comparable period, helping the company to an operating profit of £21.9 million. Including discontinued operations of £9.4 million, arising from the sale of the company's Italian operations, Sportingbet recorded a net profit for the year of £12.4 million, versus a loss of £4.3 million last year.

"This has been a very solid year for the Sportingbet Group," said Andrew McIver, Chief Executive of Sportingbet. "We are now seeing consistent profitable growth resulting from the structural changes made following our withdrawal from the US. Our focus on sports betting and geographical diversification is helping to support earnings in these troubled economic times.

"Additionally, our commitment to offer industry-leading sports betting products and excellent customer service has helped us to recruit and retain core customers.

"The new financial year has started well. Although Australian sports margin is below long term averages it is made up for by strong European sports turnover outperforming budget. The Board remains optimistic for the outcome of the financial year at this stage," added McIver.

Sportingbet said it will reinstate the payment of a final dividend of 1.0 pence for the year following the successful restructuring of the business since the closure of the US-facing business in 2006. The company plans to follow a progressive dividend policy, subject to market conditions.

Having been listed on London's AIM market since 2001, the company's board has now concluded that it is an appropriate time to consider moving the listing to the Official List of the London Stock Exchange, providing the basis for the company's continued growth and success. The listing is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2010.

Sportingbet confirmed that talks with the US Department of Justice are ongoing, with the board remaining optimistic of reaching a settlement sometime in the future.

As at July 31st the company held cash and cash equivalents of £44.3 million compared to £49.4 million last year.

Shares in Sportingbet plc (Co. Profile) (AIM:SBT) have gained 7.72% to 73.25 pence per share in London this morning following the announcement.

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