Betfair playing it safe leads to revenue decline

BETFAIR’S decision to pull out of unregulated markets in Europe has hit its top line, the betting website admitted yesterday, although the British market is going from strength to strength.

Under new chief executive Breon Corcoran, who joined Betfair from Paddy Power last summer, the company has abandoned operations in Germany and Greece and has signalled intentions to leave other markets where the regulatory environment is uncertain.

Corcoran has said this would hit revenues by a quarter, and Betfair saw the first effects of this in the three months to the end of January, with group revenues down four per cent to £90.5m.

The decline from exiting some markets was offset by improved trading in the UK, where revenues rose six per cent. Betfair, like other bookies, has been boosted by the rise of people betting on smartphones, with half of UK customers placing a wager via mobiles during the period.

The company also saw the benefit of a host of “favourable sporting outcomes”. These are unlikely sporting results, which bookies hope for since most customers tend to back the favourites. Although Betfair is renowned for its exchange betting business, in which results do not matter because people bet against each other with Betfair taking a commission, it has a growing sportsbook business that operates like a traditional bookie. Unlikely sporting results during the period included Bradford City’s march past Aston Villa and Arsenal to the Capital One Cup final.

The firm’s performance pleased investors, sending shares up 4.8 per cent.