Ladbrokes follow William Hill offshore

Online operations to move to Gibraltar, but not telephone betting call centre

Ladbrokes has announced that it is to follow William Hill plc offshore to a kinder tax regime in Gibraltar, confirming speculation that it would use the publication of its H1 2009 results to make the announcement. CEO Chris Bell said the company expected to save in excess of GBP 7 million a year from the move.

However, the group said that it would keep its telephone betting call centre in Britain.

Industry observers are now watching for reactions from the Tote and Gala Coral groups, which have not yet made public their positions on shifting online operations offshore in order to more effectively compete. Betfair has already indicated that it is not considering such a move at present but is keeping its options open.

The Ladbrokes land and online gambling group reported a decline in first-half pre-tax profit and cut its dividend as it warned trading had worsened since May and economic conditions remained challenging.

The company reported an underlying pre-tax profit of GBP 131.3 million (H1 2008: GBP 136.6 million).

CEO Bell said the company was still aiming to meet full-year expectations - Reuters reports that the consensus of analysts for full-year underlying pre-tax profit currently stands at GBP 180 million).

The gambling group cut its dividend by 31 percent to 3.5 pence given the results to date and uncertain outlook.

Previous reports have revealed that Ladbrokes is looking to sell its Italian retail business and Bell said the company has received expressions of interest.

Shares in Ladbrokes have lost nearly a third of their value over the past year.

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