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Feb. 26, 2020, 2:40 a.m. EST

William Hill loss narrowed on reduced costs

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By Jaime Llinares Taboada

William Hill PLC on Wednesday reported a narrowed pretax loss for 2019 as it booked significantly lower impairment costs but adjusted operating profit was hurt by a new limit on betting machines in the U.K.

The U.K. bookmaker booked a pretax loss for the year of 37.6 million pounds ($48.8 million), compared with a loss of GBP721.9 million in 2018 when it booked a GBP882.2 million impairment following regulatory changes in the U.K.

Its net loss was GBP26.9 million for 2019 compared with GBP712.3 million in 2018.

Revenue decreased to GBP1.58 billion from GBP1.62 billion, and was below the market forecast of GBP1.63 billion, taken from FactSet and based on 16 analysts' estimates.

Adjusted operating profit--one of the company's preferred metrics which strips out exceptional and other one-off items--fell to GBP147.0 million from GBP233.6 million hurt by regulatory changes in the U.K., but was in line with the company's guidance of GBP143 million to GBP148 million. Regarding the U.S. business, adjusted operating profit of $1.6 million was slightly better than the expected break even.

The board proposed a final dividend of 5.34 pence per share, taking the 2019 full-year payout to 8.0 pence--down from the 12.0 pence in 2018.

"We move into 2020 in a stronger position. Almost a quarter of revenue is now generated outside the U.K. compared to 15% in 2018", Chief Executive Officer Ulrik Bengtsson said.

For 2020, William Hill expects to perform in line with expectations, assuming normalized gross win margins and a stable regulatory landscape, it said.

Write to Jaime Llinares Taboada at jaime.llinares@wsj.com; @JaimeLlinaresT

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