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Playtech slumps as two of its largest markets hit by coronavirus

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(Reuters) - Playtech <PTEC.L> on Thursday warned results for 2020 would be below market expectations as the coronavirus outbreak hurt the gambling software maker's two largest markets of Asia and Italy, sending its shares tumbling to an eight-year low.

The company said the outbreak dented recent trading at its Snaitech unit, Italy's biggest sports betting firm.

Italy has emerged as an epicentre of the rapidly spreading illness with more than 400 cases, centred on the industrial heartlands of Lombardy and Veneto.

The number of new coronavirus infections inside China - the source of the outbreak - was for the first time overtaken by fresh cases elsewhere on Wednesday.

Playtech's shares fell as much as 22.5% to 237.9 pence by 0858 GMT.

Asia revenue in February is expected to be 7 million euros (5.9 million pounds) due to the negative impact of COVID-19, the company said.

Playtech's business in Asia is predominantly in China and Malaysia, which are both unregulated markets and performance in the region is already lower than previous years following a significant rise in competition in China in 2018.

The company said increased competition in China was likely to remain and the spread of the virus has led to the Asian business operating at a lower run rate than before.

"In the last two weeks (Playtech) has started to see a material impact from changes in normal customer patterns due to COVID-19," the company said.

Playtech also reported a 23% rise in adjusted core earnings to 383.1 million euros in the year ended Dec. 31.

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)