GVC Holdings has praised robust and decisive cost management in ensuring that the group achieved its target of operating at cash neutral through the lockdown period, as the firm published a trading update covering the first half of the year.

Reasserting the “extraordinary circumstances” of the current climate GVC sees net revenue for H1 drop 11 per cent, with its Q2 performance declining 22 per cent following an “encouraging start to the year”.

The group’s online division, however, recorded double digit growth across both H1 and Q2 of 19 per cent and 22 per cent respectively, driven by strong momentum gained due to a diversified product offering and geographic mix amid global sports cancellations and retail closures.

Kenneth Alexander, outgoing CEO of the group, commented: “Given the extraordinary circumstances in which the group is currently operating, delivering double-digit online net gaming revenue growth in all of our major territories is a very strong performance.  

“It is a clear testament to the strength and diversification of our business model, the quality of our technology, the enduring appeal of our brands, and the talent, commitment and professionalism of our people. 

“We have worked hard to achieve our target of operating at cash neutral throughout the lockdown period, which has enabled the group to retain the necessary financial strength to be able to take advantage of growth opportunities as and when they are presented to it. Our increased investment in BetMGM in the US is a case in point.”

However, the post-close statement also underlined the pandemic’s severe trading impact on GVC’s UK and European retail operations.

The enforced closure of Ladbrokes Coral estates from mid-March saw UK retail like-for-like NGR decline by 86 per cent during Q2 trading. This was further compounded by the Q2 closure of its Belgium and Ireland estates which subsequently dropped 90 per cent during the quarter, as group retail NGR tracked at a 50 per cent decline for the H1 period.

At present, GVC expects H1 group EBITDA to be in the range of £340m-£350m.

“During this period of lockdown measures around the world, we have been more aware than ever of our responsibility to provide the safest possible environment for our customers,” Alexander continued  

“We continue to focus on providing our customers with the tools to empower them to manage their own play, whilst deploying our market-leading technology to monitor for potentially problematic changes in behaviour and intervene as required. We are pleased that there is no evidence of any increase in problem gambling during lockdown. 

“Hopefully this has also been duly noted by those whose preference for punitive and mandatory restrictions runs the risk of driving customers into the hands of unscrupulous black-market operators, as has been the case in other countries in which stringent and misguided regulation has been introduced.

“All in all, our resilient performance through what has been a turbulent first half and the proven strength of our business model means that the Group can look forward to the future with confidence.”