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William Hill, Rank Group and Ladbrokes Share Price Surge

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Sep/18/2008
London Stock Exchange

British online gambling firms rose more than 6 percent in heavy London trading Thursday, an optimistic sign in a troubled economic climate.

Dresdner Kleinwort analysts said gambling companies may be among the most resistant to a weakening U.K. economy.

Rank led the advance with a gain of as much as 8 percent, the most in almost two months, according to Bloomberg News. Ladbrokes rose as much as 7.3 percent and William Hill climbed as much as 6.3 percent.

``It's in people's mindset and human nature to gamble,'' Dresdner Kleinwort analyst Andrew Lee said today by phone. ``When things get tough, frankly they don't change that habit, it's part of their staple diet.''

Lee pointed to the economic slump in the U.K. between 1990 and 1992 when the gambling sector was left relatively unscathed. He repeated his ``buy'' rating on William Hill and has a price estimate of 550 pence.

An estimated price-to-earnings ratio of 5.8 for 2008 ``fails to recognize betting's relative resilience, ongoing benefits from recent regulatory change, online upside and debt facility headroom,'' Lee wrote of London-based William Hill.

Rank rose as much as 5.75 pence to 77.25 pence in London and was up 3.5 pence, or 4.9 percent, to 75 pence as of 12:30 p.m.

Ladbrokes, which owns more than 2,300 U.K. and Irish betting shops, gained as much as 15.25 pence to 223.5 pence. The stock was up 5.5 percent to 219.75 pence as of 12:30 p.m.

William Hill, the operator of more than 2,250 betting shops, advanced as much as 14.75 pence to 249.75 pence and was up 4.5 percent to 245.5 pence at 12:30 p.m.

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