Ladbrokes chases William Hill in the exodus to Gibraltar as profits slump

BETTING firm Ladbrokes yesterday confirmed it would be following the fleeing footsteps of William Hill by moving its online gambling arm to Gibraltar, which it says will save &pound;7m a year.<br /><br />Chief executive Christopher Bell blamed &ldquo;intense competitive pressures&rdquo; for the move. UK based gambling firms must cough up 15 per cent of their earnings to the government, whereas offshore rivals pay just 1.5 per cent, meaning they offer better odds. <br /><br />The cost-cutting move comes as the bookmaker announced that its pre-tax profits were down by 3.9 per cent to &pound;131.3m over the last six months to 30 June.<br /><br />Analysts&rsquo; consensus for the company is that full-year pre-tax profit currently stands at &pound;180m. The company said it was cutting its dividend by 31 per cent to 3.5p, given the results to date and the uncertain outlook.<br /><br />In its UK retail business, Ladbrokes said revenues fell 7.4 per cent to &pound;343.6m, while profits fell 16.5 per cent to &pound;82.1m.<br /><br />The absence of a major football tournament and horse racing cancellations at the start of the year were blamed.<br /><br />The company was also hit by a difficult May following the success of the top four Premier League football teams at the end of the season. Yesterday, its shares rose 2.15 per cent to close at 171p.