Sports betting and gaming behemoth Entain (ENT) revealed a strong start to 2022 with net gaming revenue up 31% in the first quarter to 31 March, supported by the reopening of its retail business after shops were closed in the same period last year.
The FTSE 100 gambling giant behind Ladbrokes, bwin, Sportingbet, Foxy Bingo and other betting brands also insisted it remains ‘confident in our financial performance for full year 2022 and beyond’.
Online net gaming revenue was down 8% in the quarter, news that weighed on the shares, which traded 1.1% lower at £16.04 by mid-morning.
Yet Entain implied there was no need to worry about recent online weakness as last year’s first quarter was so strong it was always going to be hard to beat this time round.
Encouragingly Entain, which reported a strong return to profitability in the second half last year, said that volumes in its in-store Retail arm were ‘settling’ within 5% to 10% of pre-Covid-19 levels.
The FTSE 100 company added that it was benefitting from continued momentum in all markets, excluding Germany and the Netherlands, and broadened its customer base in the period.
BETMGM GOES FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH
Entain also reported its BetMGM partnership with Las Vegas-based hospitality and entertainment firm MGM Resorts International was on track to be positive at an EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) level in 2023.
‘We have started the year with a good performance across all areas of our business, driven as ever by the strength of our industry-leading platform,’ said CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen.
‘We have delivered strong performances in all of our major markets, and I am pleased to report that Retail is performing well with customers returning for our in-store experience.’
THE EXPERTS’ VIEW
Following the update, Shore Capital’s Greg Johnson reiterated his ‘buy’ rating on Entain.
The analyst wrote: ‘The market opportunity continues to build, aided by favourable regulatory and structural developments, and with its enviable track record, proprietary platform, scale and broadening geographical reach and balance sheet, Entain is well positioned to exploit these trends.’
Irish broker Davy said that at the beginning of ‘a challenging year for the sector, Entain’s Q1 trading is consistent with its previously indicated quarterly revenue growth cadence. Forward looking commentary is limited and, while there are plenty of headwinds to consider, not least UK regulatory change, we are likely to leave our estimates unchanged for now.’
AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould remarked that Entain ‘continues to shoot for the moon in terms of ambitions. Never content with making the most of what it already has, the group continues to spread its tentacles with the recent launch of an innovation hub called Ennovate to develop next generation immersive entertainment services.
‘While its goal to be a key player in the sports and entertainment metaverse could be a few years in the making, no-one can accuse the business of standing still.
‘In some ways, one must wonder why it retains physical betting stores as these represent gambling days of old. Yet in its favour is the fact they still contribute financially to the business, and the shops saw a big recovery in trading during the first quarter whereas online slipped back.’
Mould also pointed out: ‘The gambling sector has long been subject to tighter regulation as governments try to find new ways to make sure vulnerable people are not getting into trouble through betting, as well as continuously increasing the tax income from this pastime.’
Despite this headwind for the industry, the sector ‘continues to be a hot spot for takeover activity and Entain has already turned from predator to prey. MGM Resorts and DraftKings have both tried and failed to buy the business, but the more Entain grows the more likely it is that we’ll see either these parties come back again or someone else throw their hat in the ring.’