Bid target William Hill said a strong Euro 2016 football championships helped turn around Britain's biggest bookmaker after lucky punters earlier in the year ensured it suffered a poor Cheltenham festival. It said a "better than expected" football tournament saw its statutory pre-tax profit jump 28% to £100.7m ($132.4m, €118.8m) in the first six months of the year to 28 June compared to a year ago.
The firm said its gross profit win from the championships won by Portugal was £36m, compared to revenues at the Cheltenham horseracing festival in March, which it called "disappointing".
Last month the bookies chief executive, James Henderson, stepped down with immediate effect, as the industry struggles under tougher gaming machine regulations and online taxes.
Also, last month, online operator 888 and casino giant Rank said they were interested in a £3 billion three-way merger with William Hill.
At the time, William Hill said it is "not clear" that a combination would "enhance William Hill's strategic positioning". The sector is going through a period of consolidation that threatens the dominance of William Hill, which runs more than 2,300 outlets in the UK.
Betfair and Paddy Power last year agreed to merge, online gambling business GVC bought rival Bwin.Party and and Gala Coral are also combining. The sector is in the middle of costly upgrades to its online betting platforms, the fastest-growing part of the industry.
Today, William Hill said its UK retail, US and Australian operations performed well, but its online unit delivered lower-than-expected sales.
The business added that higher marketing, new product development charges and staff costs saw operating profits slump by 16% to £131.7m in the six-month period.
However, interim chief executive Philip Bowcock said the bookmaker was trading in line with its full-year expectations
Bowcock added: "We remain committed to our strategy of diversifying by expanding digitally and internationally.
"While the first half of 2016 has been challenging, William Hill is a strong business with three of our four core divisions performing well."
Hargreaves Lansdown equity analyst George Salmon said: "William Hill probably raised a glass or two of Madeira to Ronaldo and his team-mates after Portugal's surprise victory at the Euros.
"The £36m gross win from the Championships as a whole was a timely boost to the ailing bookie, who have disappointed the market in recent months as the online business continues to struggle."