The strategy of bookmakers in 2020: GVC (Ladbrokes, Coral, Bwin) grows by 16%, economic actions against coronavirus

GVC Holdings is one of the most important gaming companies on the planet: it owns Ladbrokes, Coral Eurobet, Gala Group, Bwin, Party Gaming and PartyPoker and many other famous brands.

He has adopted a strategy to cut at least £ 50 million in costs and explains his strategy to investors in this press release:

Q1 Trading and COVID-19 Planning Update

GVC Holdings PLC (LSE: GVC), the global sports betting and gaming group, today reports trading for the period from 1 January to 31 March 2020 (“Q1”) and provides a further update on the impact of COVID-19 and the mitigating actions being taken. This follows the Group’s previous announcements of 16 and 17 March 2020.

Summary

GVC started the year well, with Group net gaming revenue (“NGR”) +1% and Online NGR up +19%cc1 in the first quarter

However, the closure of retail outlets and the cancellation of sports events significantly reduced revenue from mid-March

In previous announcements the Group estimated the impact of COVID-19 before any mitigating actions equates to a reduction in EBITDA2 of approximately £100m3 per month

However, following the initiation of a number of mitigating actions the Group now expects to reduce this EBITDA impact to approximately £50m per month

As a result, the average monthly cash outflow would be limited to approximately £15m per month, and the Group is confident that further cost actions will enable it to achieve its target of reducing the cashflow to breakeven

The Group’s financial position remains robust, however given the ongoing uncertainty regarding timings of the easing of shutdown measures around the world, the Board has taken the prudent decision to withdraw the second interim dividend that is due for payment on 23 April 2020.

kenneth-alexander

Kenneth Alexander, GVC’s CEO, commented:

“As our Q1 trading numbers once again demonstrate, GVC is a business that, in normal times, delivers an outstanding performance. However, while our global and product diversification is standing us in good stead during the current uncertainty, the COVID-19 pandemic is posing an unprecedented challenge to our business and our industry. We are responding decisively, and have put in place a range of measures to keep our people safe, strengthen our financial position, limit cash outflow, preserve jobs and maintain a compelling customer offer. I am confident that we will emerge from this period in a position of strength, and we will be well placed to take advantage of a range of attractive growth opportunities which we believe will be available to us.

“We are also sensitive to the fact that at this time of economic stress and isolation, it is vital that we ensure a safe, responsible and enjoyable gaming environment for our customers and do everything that we can to minimise the potential for harm. Accordingly, not only have we supported the Betting and Gaming Council’s 10 pledge action plan on safer gambling, but we have gone further and introduced a range of additional safeguarding measures to ensure that we are able to rigorously monitor and protect anyone who may be vulnerable at this time.

“Finally, I would like to thank our outstanding teams around the world for the manner in which they have rapidly adapted to the challenge, and for their continuing hard work and commitment to ensuring GVC’s long-term success.”

Current trading

In its 2019 full year results on 5 March 2020, GVC reported that the current year up to 23 February 2020 had started strongly. That momentum continued until the Group started to see the impact of COVID-19 on sporting events and store closures in mid-March.

The performance of the Group for the year to 31 March 2020 is set out in the table below, with key highlights as follows:

  • Total Group NGR +1% (+2% cc1)
  • Online NGR +16% (+19% cc1), with continued strong growth in all major territories
  • UK Retail like-for-like (“LFL”)4 NGR -19%
  • European Retail NGR -3% (flat cc1) supported by continued market share gains in Italy
  • For the period 1 January to 15 March 2020 all divisions performed strongly, supported by favourable sports margins:
  • Group NGR +9% (+11% cc1)
  • Online performed strongly across both gaming and sports, with NGR +20% (+23% cc1).

Since then there has been an encouraging performance in gaming in the absence of sporting events, in line with the Group’s expectations

  • UK Retail like-for-like (“LFL”)4 NGR -5% despite the annualisation of the triennial review impacts
  • European Retail delivered strong NGR growth at +20% (+24% cc1)

Period 1 January to 31 March 2020

gvc-statment

For the avoidance of doubt, the guidance provided on 5 March 2020 is withdrawn.

Impact of COVID-19

On 16 and 17 March 2020 GVC provided assessments of the impact of cancellations of sporting events and store closures on Group EBITDA3 for the year to 31 December 2020. These announcements were based on the Group’s modelling which assumed that: a) football is suspended across Europe; b) major sporting events are cancelled or postponed (Aintree, Royal Ascot, Euro 2020 etc); c) horse racing in the UK and Ireland is suspended; d) all retail outlets in the UK, Republic of Ireland and mainland Europe are closed; and e) there would be a modest increase in GVC’s gaming business which accounts for 57% of Online NGR. Taken together, GVC estimated that these events would result in a reduction in EBITDA of approximately £100m3 per month before any mitigating actions. This would break down by the Group’s key reporting divisions as approximately 20% for Online, 63% for UK Retail and 17% for European Retail.

Mitigating actions

GVC’s teams around the world are working hard to reduce costs and re-prioritise activity in order to preserve free cash, whilst continuing to offer its customers great gaming experiences and to position the Group to emerge from the current restrictions in a position of strength. A number of opportunities have been identified so far which reduce costs by approximately £50m per month.

For example, in the UK GVC is eligible to receive the government grant towards employment costs as we furlough retail colleagues and retain them on full pay, as well as the business rates relief, which together the Group estimates will reduce costs by nearly £20m per month.

In Italy and Belgium GVC operates a franchising model where the store operating costs (rent, employment, utility and other costs) primarily reside with the franchisee.

Other measures taken include reductions in online sports marketing, sports content and trading costs.

Resultant estimated cash outflow

After adjusting for the impact on EBITDA, adding additional cash costs incurred (such as interest, capex, tax and other costs) and allowing for retail capex reduction, the average monthly cash outflow would be approximately £15m per month. The Group continues to work through cost mitigation opportunities and is targeting a break-even cashflow per month objective, thereby preserving cash at broadly current levels during this period of retail closures and reduced sporting events.

The following table sets out, for illustrative purposes only, the effect of our modelling and mitigating actions on EBITDA and average cashflow over a month of severe COVID-19 impacts:

Impacts of COVID-19 and mitigations

Estimated average monthly amounts

Consensus EBITDA2 for FY2020 as at 31/1/20

gvc-3

Financial position

GVC is in a robust financial position, with net debt/EBITDA as at 31 December 2019 of 2.69x. The Group had accessible cash of over £350m at 31 March 2020, of which over £250m is cash at hand after excluding cash held on behalf of customers, cash in shops, ringfenced PSP funds and other items which may not be immediately available.

In addition, GVC has a £550m Revolving Credit Facility (RCF) which is currently undrawn. This facility has a financial covenant which is only tested if the facility is drawn by more than 35% at a quarter-end. The covenant measure is calculated on a trailing 12-month pre IFRS 16 basis with a net debt/EBITDA limit of 4X. Unrealised synergies can be added to EBITDA.

GVC currently has two bonds in issue, totalling £500m. One of £100m is due 2022 and one of £400m is due 2023. In addition, the Group has Term Loans of €1,125m and $786m, both due 2024.

Dividend

Due to the ongoing uncertainty as to how long restrictions as a result of COVID-19 will be in place around the world, the Board has taken the prudent decision to withdraw the payment of the second interim dividend of 17.6p per share announced on 5 March 2020. This was due to be paid on 23 April 2020 with a total cash cost of £103m. However, the Board recognises the importance of dividends as a part of shareholder returns and will consider dividends with future results announcements.

2019 Annual Report and Annual General Meeting (“AGM”) and Directors Remuneration
The Group’s annual report for 2019 is today published on the Group’s website at gvc-plc.com. Copies will be posted to those shareholders requesting a hard copy as soon as it is practical to do so. The 2020 AGM was scheduled to be held on 30 April and in normal circumstances an AGM Notice would be circulated with the annual report. Owing to the public health guidance on social distancing, the Board has decided to postpone the AGM. The Group will issue an AGM Notice once the Board is confident it can safely hold a meeting on a specified date.

The 2019 Annual report sets out details of the directors’ 2019 incentive outcomes and 2020 implementation. However, the payment of directors’ 2019 bonuses and the grant of the 2020 LTIP awards have been postponed. The Remuneration committee will consider the impact of COVID-19 on GVC’s performance and remuneration in due course and review the implementation of the policy for 2020 as appropriate.

This announcement contains inside information for the purposes of Article 7 of the Market Abuse Regulation EU 596/2016.

 

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