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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 March 2006, 08:51 GMT
Mixed fortunes for William Hill
Race horses and jockeys
William Hill is trying to break away from its rivals in the betting market
William Hill, one of the UK's biggest bookmakers, has reported a "mixed" start to trading in 2006, with some results going against it.

The main drag on earnings came in horse racing, and continued a disappointing run of results that reined in last year's profit growth rate to 5%.

It also was hit by costs stemming from the acquisition of Stanley Leisure.

William Hill said pre-tax profit before one off-items was 246m ($432m) in 2005 compared with 234m a year earlier.

"Trading in the first eight weeks of 2006 has been mixed," the company said.

Good football results, such as Chelsea's 3-0 loss to Middlesbrough, were offset by "some poor weeks, particularly for horseracing which has been impacted by both unfavourable results and fixture cancellations", William Hill said.

However, the company said that the World Cup in Germany was likely to boost its revenues, as was strong growth in its online gaming operations.

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