Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment Revenue Rises; Italian Game Boosts Business, by Greg Tingle - 9th November 2011


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Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, the world's biggest and most successful listed online gaming company, shrugged off the global credit crunch to post a lift in third-quarter revenue, helped by the launch of new games in Italy and strong growth in its casino division.

The Gibraltar-based company, whose brands include PartyPoker.com, PartyCasino.com, Bwin and Foxy Bingo, said on Tuesday total net revenue grew 3% to 201.1 million euros (276 million) in the third quarter.

Bwin.Party, which was formed by the merger of Austria's Bwin and PartyGaming earlier this year, advised its third-quarter revenue was boosted by the launch of table games such as roulette and blackjack in Italy after the government opened up the market for casino table games and cash poker in July.

The company, which offers up to 30,000 bets daily across more than 90 sports, said it had also benefited from a bar on U.S. poker website Full Tilt Poker in April following charges of illegal gambling.

Bwin.Party said current trading was robust and in line with management's expectations.

"We expected our business to be resilient but not immune to the recession, and I think that's where we are today," said Chief Financial Officer Martin Weigold.

"There are certain markets that have been particularly hit by the financial crisis ... for us Greece is the one that stands out. However, even Greece shows quarter-on-quarter growth, but if you looked at the year-on-year movement, we have seen a double-digit decline," Weigold said.


Co-Chief Executive Jim Ryan said a possible Greek exit from the euro zone would have a limited impact on the business.

"If in fact they did leave it would just be a function of the consumers in Greece playing with a different currency; they'd still continue to use the service," he said.

The gaming industry has traditionally been a rock for the entertainment sector during periods of economic weakness.

Rival 888 reported a 42% rise in third-quarter sales last week and said it expected 2011 earnings to be significantly ahead of market estimates as British consumers stay at home, watching TV and gambling online amid an economic slowdown.

Shares in Bwin.Party, which have dipped around 33% of their value since the merger, rose 1% to 136 pence by 1000 GMT (5 a.m. ET) on Tuesday.

"Bwin.Party's third-quarter (statement) ... shows good progress across the group," Evolution Securities analyst James Hollins said in a note.

Hollins, who has an "add" rating on the stock, highlighted the company's brand resonance in key European countries and the long-term U.S. upside.

Bwin.Party's average daily revenue climbed 8% on the previous quarter, while the number of daily average players fell 4%, in part because player numbers were boosted last year by the soccer World Cup.

"The elephant in the room remains German legislation, the company's single largest market (around 22%)," Daniel Stewart analyst Michael Campbell said.

In September Germany's highest civil court upheld a ban that bars private-sector companies from operating online gambling sites.

Bwin.Party said it was working with German states on a regulatory framework and said it hoped to secure a license in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, where gambling-friendly laws were passed in September.

The firm is interested in expanding into markets such as the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment is known around the globe for brands such as PartyCasino.com PartyPoker.com and World Poker Tour

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