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William Hill PLC has announced that it will not re-open 119 shops due to the Covid-19 impact on the UK retail environment, as the bookmaker swung to an interim profit on a value added tax refund.

The company also said that it has made a “robust” recovery in the opening weeks of the second half because of the resumption of sporting activities and re-opening of shops. As a result, the company has decided to repay GBP24.5 million to the UK government received under the coronavirus job retention scheme.

For the 26 weeks ended July 2, the company recorded pretax profit of GBP141.1 million compared with a loss of GBP63.5 million a year ago. The profit figure includes a GBP201.6 million tax refund, which was partially offset by GBP81.9 million non-cash intangible store impairment charge.

Stripping out exceptional gains and charges, William Hill’s operating profit fell 85% year-on-year to GBP11.8 million, ahead of the company’s expectations.

The H1 2020 revenue declined 32% to GBP554.4 million from GBP811.7 million. The drop was attributed to Covid-19 disruption to sporting events and temporary closure of retail activities, partially offset by favourable sports results and resilient gaming performance.

“Our trading was strong before Covid-19, we controlled costs effectively during lockdown and we have recovered well post-lockdown with good performances in our online businesses throughout the first half,” Ulrik Bengtsson, Chief Executive Officer of William Hill, said.

Bengtsson added that William Hill remains confident in pursuing its growth agenda, taking advantage of its market-leading position in sports betting in the US.

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