William Hill: Trading Continues to be Resilient

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(Reuters) - British bookmaker William Hill (WMH.L) said it remained in discussions with its banks over plans to refinance its debt, and added that trading for the eleven weeks to Dec. 30 had continued to be resilient.

William Hill, which has around 2,300 betting shops across the UK and Ireland, said in a statement on Thursday that gross win -- total bets minus payouts -- increased by 8 percent in the eleven weeks to Dec. 30, compared with the previous year.

The company said it is continuing talks with its banks in relation to its borrowing facilities and is preparing to undertake the refinancing of these facilities in due course.

William Hill currently has total debt facilities of 1.45 billion pounds ($2.11 billion), including two 600 million pound facilities which mature in March 2010 and a second facility which is repayable in July 2011. 

The company said it expects earnings before interest, tax, and exceptional items to be around 275 million pounds in the year to Dec. 30. The consensus forecast currently stands at 264 million, based on a poll of 17 analysts by the company.

Total gross win for the year is expected to have increased by 6 percent, the company said.

Shares in William Hill have underperformed the UK leisure sector Q.FTASX5750 by 20 percent over the past year, reflecting concern over the debt as well as the economic downturn. ($1=.6869 Pound) (Reporting by Matt Scuffham)

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