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Online Poker News Archives - November 5, 2004

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Copyright 2004 Financial Times Business Limited
Investors Chronicle

November 5, 2004

SECTION: ISSN. 0261-3115

LENGTH: 373 words


    The tabloids may these days be filled with horror stories about compulsive gamblers in a backlash against the government's new gaming bill but, if Sportingbet's results are anything to go by, the warnings are falling on deaf ears.

    The online gaming outfit saw underlying operating profits rise from £14.6m to £21.7m last year and grew its European customer base by 70 per cent. What's more, its £162m acquisition of the world's third-largest online poker site, Paradise Poker, announced alongside these results, is expected to significantly enhance earnings. Numis Securities has upgraded 2005 pre-tax profit forecasts from £23.1m to £44.5m (EPS of 10.8p), and is pencilling in profits of £61.6m (EPS of 13.8p) for 2006.

    Online poker is a fast-growing market with fat profit margins. Around 50m people in the US play the card game, but only 2 per cent play online. The game is growing in popularity, though, due to high-profile celebrity poker tournaments, including one televised on CBS featuring actors Ben Affleck and Nicole Kidman.

    Paradise not only appears to be an attractive purchase, but opportunities for cross-selling between the two sites also look promising. The combined customer base is 2m, with only a 14,000 customer overlap, and analysts say that half of poker players are likely to bet on sports, too. The company plans to

begin paying a dividend in 2005.
Ord price: 131p Market value:
Touch: 130-132p 12-month High:
140p Low: 27p
Dividend yield: PE ratio: 50
Net asset value: Net funds: £2.6m
48p* *Includes
intangibles of
£124.2m, or 58p a

Year to Turnover Pre-tax Earnings Dividend
31 Mar ( £m) profit (£m) per share (p) per share (p)
2001 325 -4.2 -3.65 nil
2002 992 5.0 3.38 nil
2003** 969 1.4 0.78 nil
16 months to 31 16 months to 31
Jul Jul
2004 1432 5.4 2.60 nil
% change.. % change.. +189 +150 - Last IC view:
7 May 2004,
page 45

    The bookie never loses, although legislative changes in the UK and Europe could throw some uncertainty into the game. Trading on 12 times current-year earnings forecasts, the shares are worth a punt. Buy.

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