Betfair staying put

Speculation that Betfair may use the release of its latest numbers to announce a departure from Britain to a more tax-lenient jurisdiction like Malta was halted today (Wednesday) when CEO David Yu said that the group has no plans to move at the the moment.

However, Yu was outspoken in saying that the UK government's 15 percent tax on Internet gambling profits was "not ideal", putting Betfair at a competitive disadvantage....and he declined to entirely rule out the possibility of a future move to Malta should the tax position worsen. The company already channels much of its non-UK business through the Mediterranean island.

Betfair's decision comes after William Hill plc announced that its online gambling operations would be moving to Gibraltar for tax reasons. The Ladbrokes position is expected to be revealed Thursday when it releases its half-year results. It is not yet known what Gala Coral or the Tote will do.

Betfair released positive financial results for the year to 30 April showing an operating profit up 29 percent to GBP 72 million, despite a heavy overseas investment programme. Revenues have doubled in three years to GBP 303 million and the company has net cash of GBP 133 million. Much of last year's growth came from outside the UK.

Finance director Stephen Morana revealed that betting exchange operations in the UK again achieved double digit growth during the year, and that Betfair was matching an average of 6.4 million transactions in real time every day – more than every stockmarket in Europe.

The company reported a 20 percent jump in its sports operations and 31 percent growth in its games division

Active users increased by a quarter in 2009, while customers based outside the UK accounted for 49 percent of total revenue. Betfair now has 652 000 registered users, who have around GBP 240 million in their online accounts.

“We are delighted that our three-year investment plan has been so successful," said Morana. "In that period, the business has doubled in size. We believe our strong balance sheet, with no debt, makes us very well positioned to take advantage of further opportunities as they arise, in particular our US [TVG] venture and planning towards World Cup 2010.”

The company now holds licences in the UK, Italy, Malta, Germany, Austria, the US and Australia, and its $50 million acquisition this year of the US-based TVG Network positions it favourably to benefit from any US legalisation of online gambling.

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