LONDON (Reuters) - Ladbrokes , Britain's second largest bookmaker, said the benefits of investment in its troubled online business should begin to flow through fully in the second half of 2013.
The company reported an 8 percent rise in operating profit to 206 million pounds for 2012, just ahead of analyst forecasts for 204 million.
Shares in the bookmaker have increased almost 50 percent over the past six months on hopes that the company can finally come up with a compelling online strategy after a series of setbacks.
The transition to online gambling via smartphones and tablet computers has been a growth driver for the industry but Ladbrokes has been hit by delays in upgrading its technology. It has lost ground to market leader William Hill (Other OTC: WIMHY - news) and faced competition from a host of smaller competitors in the sector.
Ladbrokes expects new sports betting and mobile platforms to be rolled out in the first two quarters of 2013.
"We expect these developments to drive growth in Digital (Milan: DIB.MI - news) revenues and earnings, particularly during the second half of the year," Chief Executive Richard Glynn said on Thursday.
Ladbrokes has agreed to buy online betting exchange Betdaq for 30 million euros (26 million pounds) as part of its online expansion.
The company also operates more than 2,000 high street shops in Britain.
(Reporting by Keith Weir, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)