By Muvija M
(Reuters) -Ladbrokes owner Entain expects full-year 2021 profit to be ahead of the current consensus and reported a jump in first-half net gaming revenue on Thursday, with record bets placed on the Euro 2020 soccer tournament as sporting events resumed.
Entain expects core earnings of 850 million to 900 million pounds ($1.17 billion-$1.24 billion), ahead of current market consensus, and better than the 843.1 million pounds reported in 2020 and 761.4 million pounds in 2019.
After a year marred by cancelled sporting events and closed retail betting shops, an increase in online gambling during the pandemic-induced lockdowns have helped bookmakers.
Entain reported its 22nd straight quarter of double-digit growth in online net gaming revenue, up 22% in the three months to June, when the Euro 2020 kicked off a year late.
Shares in the firm, which owns bwin and Coral brands, settled 0.4% higher by 1111 GMT after having rising as much as 2%, still outshining the blue-chip index.
"We expect trading to improve further once the retail businesses are free of COVID-19 restrictions," Peel Hunt analysts said, raising their target price to 21 pounds.
Entain said the Euros tournament was its biggest ever sports betting event, estimating customer bets on the tournament to be about 250 million pounds. Wagers on Sunday's final between Italy and England were seen at 17.5 million pounds.
Hargreaves analyst Sophie Lund-Yates said England's semi-final victory on Wednesday could contribute "to the news that underlying cash profits are expected to beat consensus at the full year."
Entain said to date about 1.45 million pounds was riding on Italy winning, with 1 million pounds on an England victory.
The firm, which recently bought European groups Bet.pt and Enlabs AB, said it was doubling investment in its game development studios as it increases its focus on online betting.
Entain said volumes at its retail shops since reopening were only a tenth lower than before the coronavirus crisis.
But the easing of lockdowns in Britain has hit some online earnings, with 888 flagging a 20% drop in average daily revenue since May.
($1 = 0.7255 pounds)
(Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Edmund Blair)