Thursday, June 20, 2024

Gambling group 888 to change name to evoke

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888 is to change its name to evoke as the UK gambling group’s new chief executive Per Widerström tries to draw a line under a year of upheaval that has hammered its share price.

The name change was one of several steps set out by 888 on Tuesday, including a focus on its core markets of the UK, Italy, Spain and Denmark as well as cost-saving measures.

Widerström, a veteran of the online gambling industry who was installed as chief executive in October, is trying to revive the fortunes of the indebted group that has been blighted by compliance failings and management upheaval over the past 18 months.

The switch in name would “better reflect the strength of the group’s multi-brand operating model and its vision and mission to make life more interesting by delighting players with world-class betting and gaming experiences,” said 888.

London-listed 888 has also been under pressure to reduce the debt it took on to fund the 2021 acquisition of William Hill’s international operations.

Corporate rebrandings, however, can be risky. Fund management group Standard Life Aberdeen was mocked for shortening its name to Abrdn in 2021 while Royal Mail eventually reversed a decision to rebrand as Consignia.

Alongside the new name, which will require shareholder approval, 888 laid out new financial targets, including increasing revenues of between 5 per cent and 9 per cent a year over the medium-term and cutting its leverage by 2026.

James Wheatcroft, an analyst at Jefferies, said that the new targets “sit slightly ahead of consensus estimates”, adding that there had been “a step-change in urgency at 888 to position the business for long-term success” since Widerström was installed as chief executive.

Shares in 888 were up 6 per cent on Tuesday.

The company said the four markets that would now be its focus — UK, Italy, Spain and Denmark — generated about 85 per cent of its revenues. Its revenues reached £1.7bn last year, up from £1.2bn in 2022.

In contrast to some rivals, the US is not a key market for 888. The company, which announced this month it was looking to pull out of the US consumer sports betting business, said on Tuesday that the decision would deliver “significant cost savings”.

It had said it would conclude its partnership with Authentic Brands Group, which had given it exclusive use of the Sports Illustrated brand in the US for online betting and gaming.

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