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Online growth boosts William Hill

A jump in punters betting online helped William Hill end an "already good year" on the front foot.

Having rolled out a number of new mobile gaming and virtual sports sites and apps over the year, the UK's largest bookmaker said revenues growth online topped 20% for the third consecutive year.

The growth of 27% and a rise of 6% from its portfolio of 2,390 UK betting shops meant overall revenues were up by 12% in 2012, helping operating profits to improve by an estimated 20% to around 330 million.

Weather-related horse racing fixture cancellations meant the amounts wagered in shops fell by 1% in the year but the gross win margin, which reflects the percentage of losing bets, was higher than normal at 18.2%.

In the final quarter, the margin on football matches was 26.9% against 24.1% a year earlier.

Chief executive Ralph Topping said: "The fourth quarter delivered a strong end to an already good year in 2012.

"Performance was robust in retail and profits continued to grow strongly in online, with sporting results going in our favour in both channels."

William Hill shares were 4% higher and have risen more than 60% over the last year.

Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, said: "The market continues to reward those companies which have embraced online business and William Hill is no exception.

"On a more cautious note, further government interference can never be discounted, competition is intense and there is always the possibility of an unfavourable run of sporting results."

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