There was a vivid reminder this morning that when it comes to buying and owning shares, there are some companies you may want to avoid.
William Hill has issued a profit warning, following poor trading in its online business. Its shares fell by 13 per cent, as investors lamented a fall in its forecast profits for the year – from £308m to a mere £270m.
The main reason seems to be that William Hill is failing to persuade people with a gambling problem to lose as much money online as they were.
Charles Huggins, investment analyst at one of the UK’s biggest share brokers Hargreaves Lansdown, wrote: “We can forgive the group an unfavourable run of sporting results, which is clearly outside of its control and to be expected from time to time. The acceleration in the number of time-outs and automatic self-exclusions in its online business is more worrying. Basically this means that ‘problem gamblers’ are being locked out of their accounts.”
Oh dear, that sounds awful.
Huggins explains: “Regulation is increasingly moving towards placing more onus on the bookies themselves to identify problem gamblers, and to promote self-exclusion schemes. In the fourth quarter of last year, for example, the Gambling Commission introduced new rules to make it easier for online players to self-exclude. Previously, players would have had to contact a call centre to self-exclude but the new system provides an online prompt to do this.”
He concludes: “The challenge for William Hill is to reduce reliance on problem gamblers and recruit more ‘recreational’ clients. These are punters who don’t take it seriously enough to really know what they are playing at, and can therefore be relied upon to bet money at poor odds, in return for a bit of a thrill. The profit warning suggests there is still some way to go on this front.”
Well lets all hope they succeed, eh? The only danger for shareholders may be that they turn more ‘recreational’ players into ‘problem gamblers’…..but hey, at least the poor suckers will pour a lot of money into Hill’s coffers along the road to ruin!
Anyone for an ethical fund?