Wil­liam Hill to close 119 bet­ting stores as virus pushes the book­maker to £14.2m half-year loss

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By

Si­mon Foy

WIL­LIAM Hill is to shut an­other 119 high street bet­ting shops af­ter warn­ing that in-store gam­bling will never re­cover to pre-cri­sis lev­els.

The FTSE 250 com­pany took ac­tion af­ter tum­bling to a £14.2m un­der­ly­ing pre-tax loss for the six months to June, down from a £51m profit for the same pe­riod last year.

Rev­enues slumped by a third to £554m, while the book­maker also suf­fered an £81.9m hit on the value of its re­tail es­tate.

How­ever, bosses said that the group had seen a ro­bust re­cov­ery since live sport restarted and its shops re­opened, al­low­ing it to pay back £24.5m of tax­payer cash claimed through the state­funded fur­lough scheme when staff were un­able to work.

Dur­ing lock­down, Wil­liam Hill fur­loughed more than 7,000 staff across its 1,500 bet­ting shops. Wil­liam Hill said: “The group has been im­pacted by the global Covid-19 pan­demic, which has led to the group tak­ing the de­ci­sion to not re­open a fur­ther 119 shops af­ter lock­down re­stric­tions were lifted in the UK and to in­creased un­cer­tainty of fu­ture high street re­tail cash flows.”

The com­pany said that only 16 jobs would be af­fected as more than 200 work­ers would be re­de­ployed rather than laid off.

Wil­liam Hill has 12,000 staff in­clud­ing 7,000 in Bri­tain. Shares closed up 9pc at 127.6p.

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