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GVC raises profit outlook again, to shut fewer shops

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(Reuters) – GVC Holdings Plc <GVC.L> raised its full-year profit outlook for the second time after its UK retail business performed better than feared, and the Ladbrokes owner said it expects to shut about 100 fewer shops than previously planned.

The company was set shut up to 1,000 stores after Britain cut the maximum stake allowed on fixed odds betting terminals to 2 pounds from 100 pounds, following complaints that the machines were becoming highly addictive and allowing players to rack up huge losses.

Shares of the company rose 6.3% to 581 pence in early trading and were the biggest gainers on Britain’s mid-cap index <.FTMC>. Rival William Hill Plc’s <WMH.L> shares were up 7%.

GVC said on Thursday it now expects to shut 900 shops. The company also said full-year core earnings would be within the range of 650 million pounds to 670 million pounds.

The company said the first three months after the implementation of the new wager restrictions in UK Retail has progressed well, adding that trends are ahead of original expectations “resulting in a second upgrade to profit guidance this year.”

Underlying pretax profit rose 31% to 212.1 million pounds ($255.71 million) for the six months ended June 30.

The company said like-for-like net gaming revenue in its UK retail business fell 10%, which was better-than-expected, leading GVC to see a further 10 million pounds in earnings.

The owner of brands such as bwin, Coral, Crystalbet and Eurobet, also reported higher revenue in its online and European retail business with group net gaming revenue rising 5% to 1.81 billion pounds on a pro forma basis.

Last week, William Hill posted lower first-half profit, as the regulatory cap and more costs to expand in the U.S. took a toll on the gambling group.

(Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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