Game of two halves for Paddy Power

Gross win margins slipped in first half

Paddy Power endured a torrid first half with a slew of racing and football results going the punters’ way. Photograph: Paul Sherwood

Paddy Power endured a torrid first half with a slew of racing and football results going the punters’ way. Photograph: Paul Sherwood

Sat, Aug 30, 2014, 01:00

It’s a cliche we couldn’t resist: this year looks like a game of two halves for Paddy Power. The listed bookmaker this week published numbers showing first-half operating profit down 20 per cent at €60.1 million. However, it left full-year guidance unchanged on the basis that, so far, exchanges with punters in the second half have delivered much better results.

Power endured a torrid first half with a slew of racing and football results going the punters’ way. This did not mean that Paddy Power lost money, simply that it won less than it would expect in an “average” year. Gross win margins, the difference between what clients wager and what is handed back to them in winnings, slipped to 9.1 per cent from 10.1 per cent.

This meant that for every €10 stake, Power handed back €9.09 in winnings, compared with €8.99 during the first half of 2013. That 10 cent may not seem like much, but when you apply it to €3.4 billion in wagers the difference is significant. This happened across the industry – William Hill’s gross win margins dropped 1.7 per cent in the same period.

In contrast, play swung Paddy Power’s way in the first two months of the second half. Net revenue is up 45 per cent, indicating the company is clawing back much of what clients won in the first half.

That is the nature of bookmaking: it is up and down, but once you structure your odds correctly you will always win in the long term, and your margins should fall within a relatively consistent range. The group needs those margins to remain in and around their long-term expected averages to end the year with a reasonable lead over the punters.

Italy is a different story. The group hoped it would break even by the end of this year, but it is now unlikely to deliver on that promise until mid-2016, partly because poor infrastructure means the market has been slow to adopt to mobile and internet betting. It is far too early for the bookie to say “arrivederci” but it is having to play a longer game than expected.

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