Jan 20 (Reuters) - British gambling firm Entain's
online betting revenue fell in the fourth quarter after nearly
six years of double-digit growth, though activity at its shops
bounced back as COVID restrictions were lifted, it said on
Entain, which owns Ladbrokes and Coral betting shops and the
bwin and partypoker online brands, also said it was tightening
its outlook for annual core earnings to 875 to 885 million
pounds ($1.2 billion) from 850 to 900 million pounds previously.
The company, which was the subject of two takeover
approaches over the past year, said its online net gaming
revenue fell 9% in the three months to Dec. 31 from a year
earlier, when it reported particularly strong numbers.
It was the first decline after 23 consecutive quarters of
double-digit revenue growth measured on a constant currency
basis, though Entain said the fall was not as steep as feared.
Entain said its retail net gaming revenue surged 60%, with
betting volumes at its more than 4,000 outlets across the United
Kingdom, Italy, Ireland and Belgium within 10% of pre-pandemic
levels. Overall net gaming revenue climbed 4%.
The results were Entain's first after a year in which both
U.S. rival DraftKings and casino operator MGM
made takeover approaches, though neither resulted in a deal.
The takeover interest came during a year of rapid growth for
the online betting business during coronavirus lockdowns and as
BetMGM - Entain's U.S. online sportsbook joint venture with MGM
- continued to gain market share.
BetMGM raised its 2022 revenue forecast on Wednesday and
said it expected to report a core profit in 2023.
Shares in Entain climbed 48% last year but have fallen 20%
since DraftKings dropped its pursuit of the company in October.
The stock was up 0.5% at 0950 GMT on Thursday following the
release of the revenue figures.
"We believe that (Entain's) share price fails to reflect
BetMGM's increasingly strong position in the U.S. and Entain's
strong foundations for funding the expansion," analysts at Peel
Hunt said in a note.
($1 = 0.7338 pounds)
(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak
Dasgupta and David Clarke)