Bookmakers Suspend Dividends and Bonuses Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

By Martin Green12 April 2020
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William Hill chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson and his executive team will not receive bonuses or salary increases as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. The bookmaker has already suspended its dividend for 2019 after warning the COVID-19 pandemic would knock between £110 million and £120 million off its EBITDA. Employees across the group will not receive a pay rise, but those entitled to national minimum wage increases will receive them, while Hills pledged to top up the wages of furloughed staff to 100% of normal salary levels. Lynne Weedall, chair of William Hill’s remuneration committee, said: “As a board, we are focused on taking appropriate steps during the current emergency that will look to protect the interests of all of our key stakeholders [employees, customers, suppliers and shareholders] to best ensure the strength of our business in the long-term.”

Ladbrokes Coral owner GVC has also cancelled its interim dividend over coronavirus concerns. It said the outbreak has “significantly reduced” its revenues from mid-March, when the sporting calendar was quickly decimated. GVC previously reported that EBITDA would drop by £100 million per month, but it has now halved that forecast to £50 million a month after taking steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. “GVC is a business that, in normal times, delivers an outstanding performance,” said chief executive Kenneth Alexander said. “However, while our global and product diversification is standing us in good stead during the current uncertainty, the COVID-19 pandemic is posing an unprecedented challenge to our business and our industry. We are responding decisively, and have put in place a range of measures to keep our people safe, strengthen our financial position, limit cash outflow, preserve jobs and maintain a compelling customer offer. I am confident that we will emerge from this period in a position of strength.”

Bet365 chief executive Denise Coates has donated £10 million to an NHS Trust to support its fight against COVID-19. The billionaire businesswoman made the donation to University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM), which covers her hometown of Stoke-on-Trent. She said she and her charity foundation “felt we had to step forward”. Bet365 has guaranteed the employment of all staff for at least five months during the coronavirus crisis. UHNM chief executive Tracy Bullock said: “We are extremely grateful to the Denise Coates Foundation for this significant grant to support our staff and patients during COVID-19 and beyond. As a result of COVID we have rapidly established new ways of working but in some circumstances are lacking the technology to do this in the most effective way. This investment will help fund schemes and provide latest technology to improve communications between clinicians; between clinicians and patients and between patients and their families.”

Paddy Power has launched a four-part video series designed to provide a humorous take on the trials and tribulations of an out-of-work dinosaur mascot called Frank The Tank. He has worked for Basildon Athletic FC for 16 years, but Frank The Tank is now suspended from work. The first episode earned more than a million views within 48 hours and a second episode has also proved popular, according to PR Week. Paddy Power’s head of content and channels, Jack Wilson, said: “Anyone with even a passing interest in football will know that the real stars of the sport are the mascots – so we wanted to take fans behind the scenes to see what their life is like away from the pitch Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible, so we just had to imagine what it might be like instead. We hope it gives our followers a smile, and an escape from the news updates for five minutes or so.” Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment will ask shareholders to take a 133p dividend payout in the form of shares rather than cash as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.