Hilton Group PLC changed its name to Ladbrokes PLC on Thursday after completing the sale of its hotels business to its U.S. namesake, leaving the British company with just its gambling division.
With the change, the company plans to focus on expanding internationally beyond its European bookmaking operations, including a consulting deal to set up betting shops in China and possible entry into the online gambling market in the United States.
The company also released its final full-year profit as a combined hotel and gaming company, showing modest increases in net profit and revenue.
The Hilton Group formally ceased to exist following the release of those earnings when a $6.1-billion-US takeover by its U.S. counterpart Hilton Hotels Corp. was completed. The deal will reunite the U.S. and international Hilton hotel businesses for the first time since the 1960s.
Left with just its gambling business – comprising some 2,000 betting shops in Belgium, Ireland and the United Kingdom as well as betting websites – Ladbrokes said it will shortly review its position of not accepting U.S. customers to its online gambling sites.
“We always review our position,” CEO Christopher Bell said on a conference call. “We’re the biggest online brand that doesn’t take U.S. players,” he added. “We are going to review that even quicker this year.”
Rival online gaming operators such as PartyGaming PLC already accept U.S. customers, despite some uncertainty over the legality of gambling online in the United States.
Federal law prohibits Internet gambling sites from originating in the United States, and Congress has refused to let U.S. casinos offer gambling online. But offshore sites are big business, generating billions of dollars in revenue.
Ladbrokes also said it has secured a consulting role in the launch of sports betting shops in Beijing Province in China, a deal that Bell said was central to the company’s strategy for international brand expansion.
“China has the potential to be one of the biggest betting markets in the world,” Bell said. “This demonstrates how well the brand travels.”
“We’re likely to announce another two or four (Online Casino agreements) in the coming months and they’ll all be in Asia or Europe,” he added.
In its last combined results, the Hilton Group reported net profit of 330.8 million pounds ($575.46 million), up from 327.9 million pounds in 2004. Revenue came to 11.5 billion pounds ($19.9 billion), up from 10.1 billion pounds in the previous year.