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Edited Transcript of ALL.AX earnings conference call or presentation 20-Nov-19 2:00am GMT

Full Year 2019 Aristocrat Leisure Ltd Earnings Call

NSW Dec 4, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Aristocrat Leisure Ltd earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at 2:00:00am GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Julie Cameron-Doe

Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CFO

* Trevor J. Croker

Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director

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Conference Call Participants

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* Bryan Raymond

Citigroup Inc, Research Division - VP & Analyst

* David Fabris

Macquarie Research - Research Analyst

* Kane Hannan

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - Research Analyst

* Larry Gandler

Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director

* Matthew H. Ryan

UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Executive Director and Research Analyst

* Rohan Sundram

MST Marquee - Gaming and Contractors Analyst

* Sacha Krien

Evans & Partners Pty. Ltd., Research Division - Senior Research Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Aristocrat Full Year Results Briefing. (Operator Instructions)

I would now like to hand the conference over to Mr. Trevor Croker, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer. Please go ahead.

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [2]

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Good afternoon. Welcome to Aristocrat Leisure Limited's financial results presentation for the 12 months to 30th of September 2019.

My name is Trevor Croker, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Aristocrat. It's a pleasure for me to be presenting today, along with Julie Cameron-Doe, our Chief Financial Officer. Thank you for joining us.

Before we begin, please note the usual disclaimer statement on Page 2 of our investor presentation pack.

Full details of the results are contained in the operating and financial review document released this morning. In today's session, we'll recap our business strategy before speaking to our results highlights and our expectations for 2020 fiscal year before opening the line to Q&A.

For clarity, all references to prior corresponding period, or PCP, represent the 12 months to September 30, 2018, and are expressed in reported terms unless otherwise specified. Normalized results refer to the reported results, excluding the impact of certain significant items and adjustments during the period, namely contingent retention arrangements and costs related to the acquisitions of Plarium and Big Fish.

I'd like to begin by speaking to our progress in implementing our growth strategy which is built on 3 pillars of great talent, exceptional portfolios and diversified distribution channels.

Turning to Slide 4. Over recent years, Aristocrat has delivered outstanding share growth in existing markets while investing to capture new opportunities both organically and through disciplined M&A. This progress has, in turn, delivered strong performance at group level while also bringing new skill sets and capabilities to the business to help sustain further momentum.

In our land-based operations, we continue to invest strongly in content and technology, broadening and deepening our portfolio to fuel further share-taking, including the penetration of adjacent attractive markets. With the appointment of Mitchell Bowen as the CEO of Land-based and Chief Transformation Officer during the reporting period, the business is increasingly focused on benefiting from closer operational and strategic alignment. We've also driven growth in our digital business with a diversified portfolio approach across Social Casino and casual games genres and a strong focus on live operations and marketing investment. The appointment earlier this month of [Mike Lang] as CEO Digital demonstrates the progress we're making in bedding down our transformative digital acquisitions and driving closer coordination, which I'll return to shortly.

Aristocrat's strong balance sheet and expanding recurring revenue base continues to give us broad optionality to invest to sustain our growth momentum and create value for shareholders. We actively scan for nonorganic opportunities to accelerate our progress, in particular, bolt-on opportunities that will deliver strategic capabilities. As our business grows and evolves, we are investing more in core digital, data and transformational skill sets. We also are taking a strategic approach to building and leveraging connections across our global business to bring a broader range of value-added products and services experiences to customers and players.

Going forward, Aristocrat will increasingly seek to take industry leadership positions on key environmental, social and governance issues, including responsible game play, consumer privacy and data governance, and to take a transparent best practice approach to risk management. These efforts are fully consistent with our commitment to deliver long-term performance, ensure a vibrant and sustainable industry for the interest of shareholders and all stakeholders. Finally, we'll keep evolving our operating model to support scalability and the continued execution of our strategy as we grow.

To further illustrate our approach and progress, I'll now talk to 2 slides focusing on our strategy in key businesses, starting with North America land-based operations on Slide 5. This slide shows the growth in our addressable market opportunity in our largest land-based market in North America. 2014 is on the left-hand side and 2020 on the right. As you can see, we expect that by the end of the calendar 2020, we will participate in 96% and 80%, respectively, of the outright sales and gaming operations markets. This compares to our position in 2014, when Aristocrat participated in 65% of the outright sales market and 37% of the gaming operations market. This addressable market is being facilitated by significantly broadening and deepening product portfolios which, in turn, demonstrate our sustained investment in design and development, or D&D, and strengthening sales capability.

Turning now to Digital on Slide 6. This slide summarizes our approach to growing our digital operations. Protecting our evergreen titles and building our portfolio over time requires a number of things. This includes outstanding game design talent, core digital skill sets, sharing of best practices, strong and disciplined marketing and investment, and operational rigor. There are many parallels here to our proven approach in land-based. At its heart, our digital strategy focuses on our competitiveness and the things we can control to target sustained above-market growth.

Moving to a summary of Aristocrat's performance for the 2019 fiscal year on Slide 8. Aristocrat delivered a high-quality result in fiscal 2019, further extending our track record of share-taking and organic growth driven by strong investment in talent, game content, user acquisition and retention with increasingly broad and competitive product portfolios.

Normalized profit after tax, before amortization of acquired intangibles, or NPATA, of $894.4 million represents growth of 23% in reported terms and 14% in constant currency. This compares favorably to the $729.6 million delivered in the prior 12-month period to 30th of September 2018. Revenue increased 23% to approximately $4.4 billion; and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, increased 20% compared to the PCP to just under $1.6 billion.

In constant currency, revenue was up 15%, and EBITDA increased by almost 12%, reflecting strong gaming operations momentum. This was partly offset by lower digital margins due to the impact of growth in lower-margin social casual games, in line with our expectations, and sustained investment in D&D. Fully diluted earnings per share before amortization of acquired intangibles of $0.01402 represents a 23% increase compared to the PCP.

Operating cash flow of over $1 billion was generated in the period.

Net gearing reduced to 1.4x at 30th of September 2019, down from 1.7x in the PCP and 2.2x at the announcement of the Big Fish acquisition in November 2017.

The directors have authorized a fully franked dividend of $0.34 per share or $217.1 million in respect to the 6-month period ended 30th of September 2019. This represents an increase of 26%, or $0.07, reflective of strong earnings growth and cash flows, together with continued improvement in gearing.

Total dividends for the 2019 fiscal year of $0.56 per share are 22% or $0.10 a higher than the PCP. The record date will be November 29, and the payment date will be 17th of December 2019.

Our Digital business made a positive contribution and added to our earnings diversity, delivering over 40% of total group revenue during the year. Land-based gaming operations and outright sales each contributed around 30%, with recurring revenues hitting a significant threshold at more than 2/3 of our total group revenue in fiscal 2019.

I'll step through some details shortly, but key operational highlights of the result include a further lift in both share and yield in the land-based North American gaming operations business and further share growth across key global outright sales markets.

In digital, I would call out the successful launch and scaling of RAID Shadow Legends. This was our first foray to the high-growth collectible RPG genre, and the launch was significant, not only from a performance and portfolio perspective, but also because of the insights gained which will be applied to future launches and genre entry strategies.

In our land-based business, strong D&D investment ensures we can continue to take share today, unlock adjacent opportunities tomorrow and build new growth engines optionality for the future.

Over the 2019 full year, Aristocrat listed D&D investment 21% in absolute terms compared to the PCP, hitting a fresh record of just over $500 million. This equates to 11.4% of revenue which is aligned with the PCP and comfortable within the 11% to 12% range of the businesses allocated across recent years. At the same time, we invested strongly in user acquisition, or UA, to support our growth in the digital business. UA investment of $328 million represented 26.2% of revenues, with the benefit of Plarium's proprietary Go Game tool and collaboration across the digital businesses, we also improved the quality and flexibility of UA allocation during 2019. We now have a consistent and data-led approach with a strong focus on returns and readiness to invest significantly or pull back investment where prudent.

Finally, throughout the reporting period, we're not only continued to invest in innovation but also in aggressively defending our IP assets across key markets.

I'll now invite Julie Cameron-Doe, Aristocrat's Chief Financial Officer, to take us through highlights of the group results. Julie?

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Julie Cameron-Doe, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CFO [3]

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Thank you, Trevor, and good afternoon, everyone.

I will first step through the composition of Aristocrat's reported NPATA performance of $894.4 million, normalized for significant items associated with the acquisitions of Plarium and Big Fish, reconciled to the PCP on Slide 9. This result represents 23% growth in NPATA, once again driven by operational growth in key land-based and digital business units, supported by significant tax and foreign exchange benefits, and partly offset by increased D&D investments. In constant currency, NPATA grew 14% compared to the results for the prior corresponding 12 months.

Stepping through the chart from the left-hand side. Profit in the Americas business improved $95.8 million on the PCP. This reflected a full year of outstanding Class III gaming operations performance, growth in Class II gaming operations, expansion in overall average fee per day to above USD 50, and excellent outright sales momentum. The ANZ business delivered a fresh record result driven by a strong portfolio of games and market-leading cabinets. ANZ profit improved $4.3 million compared to the PCP.

The digital business delivered $37 million of incremental profit, demonstrating the full period impact of the Big Fish and Plarium acquisitions, along with the continued scaling of the Lightning Link app and performance across the broader game portfolio. In the International Class III segment, post-tax profit, declined $9.8 million compared to fiscal 2018 due to fewer significant new openings expansion.

Corporate cost and interest increased by $7.8 million compared to the 12 months to 30th of September 2018 due to the full period impact of the acquisitions. As Trevor referenced, an increase of $41.8 million in D&D investment over the year underlined our commitment to innovation and delivering long-term sustainable growth. A decrease in the group's effective tax rate from 28.9% to 27.5% drove a $21.4 million profit benefit and reflected the impact of U.S. Tax reform and the change in our geographic business mix as a result of the growth in the Americas as well as the recent digital acquisition.

Finally, favorable foreign exchange movements, reflecting a weaker Australian dollar, increased profit by a further $65.7 million compared to the PCP.

Turning now to Slide 10. Net debt for the full year of around $2.2 billion compared favorably to net debt of around $2.5 billion reported at September 30, 2018, representing a net debt-to-EBITDA leverage ratio of 1.4x versus 1.7x in the PCP. This result was driven both by earnings growth and free cash flow generation.

During the period, the group repaid $200 million of its Term Loan B facility, demonstrating Aristocrat's strong cash and liquidity position. We're very comfortable with Aristocrat's net gearing position,given the business' free cash flow-generating capability and established track record of deleveraging. Aristocrat also maintains a disciplined focus on risk management with stable credit ratings that are aligned to our level of gearing and support our Term Loan B stability arrangement. This provides the business with financial certainty, competitively priced finance and flexibility going forward.

Turning to Slide 11. As Trevor mentioned, operating cash flow of over $1 billion was over 16% higher than the prior corresponding period, demonstrating a strong cash flow-generating fundamentals of the business, with a higher proportion of recurring revenues in our total group revenue mix.

Capital expenditure increased almost 18% from $269 million in the PCP to over $316 million, primarily as a result of the investment in hardware required to support strong growth in the North American gaming operations install base. This investment also drove higher net working capital, which increased as a percentage of revenue from 1.7% in the PCP to 5.6% in the reporting period.

That concludes the summary of group performance highlights.

I will now pass back to Trevor to comment on operational performance and outlook for the 2020 fiscal year. Trevor?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [4]

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Thanks, Julie.

I'll now share more detail about operational results, beginning with a land-based summary on Slide 13. Over the course of 2019, our land-based business took further steps forward in terms of scale and portfolio group. On a combined basis, our land-based operations delivered over $2.5 billion in revenues during the reporting period, representing more than 37,000 outright EGM sales and a gaming operations install base of over 48,000 units.

Focusing now on the Americas segment in Slide 14. In local currency, Americas revenue increased over 14%, and profit lifted more than 15% to almost $1.4 billion and over $750 million, respectively, over the reporting period compared to the PCP. North American gaming operations continued to grow strongly, with our Class III premium gaming operations footprint expanding by 14% to around 23,000 units at period end, driving further share growth in a relatively flat market. Performance was fueled by continued penetration of the market-leading titles across our top-performing cabinets, including a successful launch of MarsX and EdgeX cabinets during the period.

In Class III gaming operations, placements grew almost 4% off the back of further penetration of Ovation video product and the maintenance of our mechanical wheel footprint. Aristocrat's total gaming operations install base increased 9% during the reporting period to over 48,000 units, as previously mentioned, and our combined average fee per day improved modestly by 1.3% to $50.46 driven by excellent game performance and floor optimization strategies.

In Class III outright sales, revenue increased 22%, and platforms increased 30% compared to the prior corresponding period driven by continuing strength in overall portfolio. Further penetration in adjacencies also supported this result, particularly in the VLT and Washington CDS markets. Sales into adjacent markets represented around 3,000 units or approximately 16% of the total outright sales in North America during the reporting period. The business also grew share over the year in an increasingly competitive landscape, whilst the average sales price, or ASP, declined moderately compared to the PCP driven by expansion into strategic adjacency. ASP remained above the industry average.

Aristocrat continued to receive outstanding customer feedback in North America, consistently ranking as the leading gaming equipment supplier across a number of key casino customer surveys. And for the sixth year in a row, Aristocrat was named top land-based supplier at the G2E Trade Show in Las Vegas.

Turning now to the ANZ and international Class III results on Slide 15. In constant currency, ANZ profit increased almost 3%, and revenue increased fractionally to over $213 million and $455 million, respectively, compared to the PCP, despite overall churn returning to a more typical level. ASP improved slightly to $21,252 compared to the $20,487 achieved in the prior corresponding period driven by positive mix and sales of the Helix+ and Helix XT family of cabinets.

Segment profit margin increased 120 basis points to 46.8%, up from 45.6% in the PCP. This was driven by favorable commercial mix towards recurring revenue. The business also continued to offer more flexible customer solutions through the period, with an increase in long-term buying programs for strategic accounts and bundled office. The ANZ business extended its market-leadership share performance in fiscal 2019 and continued to focus on customer-centric improvements to systems, processes and culture, and reflecting our deep commitment to this market.

Turning now to the International Class III segment. International Class III revenue and profit decreased 7% and 13%, respectively, to $195 million and $90 million compared to the PCP, as previously noted. The decline in Asia Pacific was partly offset by further growth in EMEA, with the recurring revenue install base in this region growing almost 23% over the 12 months to 30th of September, 2019, compared to the PCP. Performance momentum was driven by a focus on successful Link products. In Asia Pacific, Helix+ continued to be the primary for-sale cabinet with key titles propelling strong underlying performance across the region.

I will now provide more detail on performance in our digital gaming segment on Slide 17. Please note the figures on this slide are in U.S. dollars.

As mentioned, over the course of the year, we made significant strides in integrating, connecting and expanding our digital operations, focusing on portfolio growth, leveraging our scale and maximizing efficiency. On a combined basis, our digital businesses group generated over $1.2 billion in bookings during the reported period, delivering $370 million in segment profit. UA investment of $328 million underpinned its performance.

As I noted previously, the business prioritized resources to increase the efficiency of our investment in UA by implementing a common platform management tool, Go Game, based on clear return metrics. We also made more use of low-cost development jurisdictions and applied proven content, mechanisms and features across the portfolio, particularly in Social Casino.

The casual games pipeline was refocused towards segments where we have strong capabilities. We're also broadening our portfolio and experience with the successful launch of RAID and the launch of Toy Story Drop! in partnership with Disney Pixar.

Turning to Slide 18. This slide demonstrates the increasing diversity of our digital portfolio across genres, geographies and demographics. In addition to new game launches, established and evergreen titles were refreshed with new content, live ops and features to enhance game experiences and profitability.

I'll now move to Slide 19, which provides a further lens on the quality of the digital portfolio. The chart on the left show the shifting mix between social casino and social casual games in terms of total booking contribution. Contribution went from a roughly 54:46 pro forma split in fiscal 2018 to a 52:48 split in fiscal 2019, while overall bookings grew. At the same time, the charts on the right demonstrate the mix of game titles that contributed more than USD 50 million in bookings over both pro forma 2018 and 2019. Over the course of 2019, an additional 2 titles achieved a $50 million bookings threshold in RAID and Lightning Link, further improving portfolio strength and diversity.

Now turning to Slide 20 and a summary of the digital performance. The digital business grew significantly over the course of the reporting period compared to the PCP. Revenue grew 24% off the back of a full period impact of the Big Fish and Plarium acquisitions, together with the scaling of key titles such as Lighting Link, continued performance from Jackpot Magic Slots and Lost Island, and the contribution of new games.

In U.S. dollars, total portfolio bookings increased 21% to over $1.2 billion during the reporting period, and segment profit grew almost 12% to $370 million.

Segment margin moderated to 29.6%, in line with expectations, reflecting growth in lower-margin social casual games, targeting investment in the development of new features and live ops in social casino, and increasing marketing investment behind the successful global launch and scaling of RAID.

The Social Casino segment contributed $638 million in bookings, representing a 12% increase on the PCP. The Social Casual segment meanwhile delivered $590 million in bookings during the period, representing a 33% increase on the PCP.

Total daily active users, or DAU, at 30th of September 2019, moderated to 7.5 million from 8.1 million in the PCP. However, average bookings per daily active user, or ABDAU, increased fractionally from $0.40 to $0.41 over the same period, reflecting our focus on DAU quality and building long-term engagement.

Turning now to an update on the group's tax profile on Slide 22. As flagged in May, Aristocrat's business profile has changed over the last several years, with a large and increasing majority of profit generation from the U.S. now representing over 60% of group revenues. In response to this significant shift and consistent with shareholders' interest, Aristocrat has implemented changes in its group structure to ensure that it remains fully aligned with the underlying business profile. These changes enabled the company to benefit from additional non-Australian tax deductions while continuing to be a tax resident and pay taxes in Australia. These structural changes were implemented on 19th of November 2019.

Financially, these changes are expected to lead to reductions in both cash tax paid and accounting tax expense but will not impact the amount of Australian tax the business pays, which has averaged over $120 million per year for the past 3 years as disclosed in Aristocrat's voluntary tax transparency code report. Aristocrat has obtained a private ruling from the Australian tax office that confirms the treatment adopted by the company.

The financial impact of these changes is as follows. The company will recognize a one-off deferred tax asset of approximately AUD 1 billion in the first half of the 2020 fiscal year. The group's effective tax rate, normalized for the recognition of the deferred tax assets, will be approximately 23.5% to 24.5% over the next 2 to 3 years. This continues to place Aristocrat well within the average ETR range for the ASX 100. We expect these benefits to continue into the future, subject to global tax policy or legislative changes.

The recognition of deferred tax asset is a key judgment relating to the probability of future economic benefits. A reassessment of the carrying amount of the deferred tax assets will be performed at each reporting period.

Turning now to outlook for the 2020 fiscal year on Slide 24. Aristocrat plans for continued growth in the 2020 fiscal year driven by the following. In land-based outright sales, we anticipate further incremental gains in attractive North American adjacencies. We expect to maintain market-leading share positions across key for-sale segments globally.

In land-based gaming operations, we expect continued expansion across our total gaming operations install base, leveraging our broadening portfolio while maintaining market-leading average fee-per-day performance across the overall combined install base.

Across digital, we anticipate further growth in digital bookings supported by scaling of recent released new games. User acquisition spend will continue to be allocated dynamically based on the game performance and is expected to remain between 25% and 28% of overall digital revenues. We expect the changes in our group structure to start to generate cash tax savings which will further enhance the group's ability to invest to sustain our growth momentum and create value for shareholders.

We anticipate continuing to lift D&D investment across our land-based and digital portfolio in absolute dollar terms while remaining broadly flat in line with prior years from a percentage of revenue perspective. We expect a moderate increase in SG&A across the business as we invest in digital, data and transformation skill sets for growth.

For nonoperating items, additional detail is provided in the table.

Prior to moving to Q&A, I'd like to conclude by reiterating that fiscal 2019 was another year of high-quality profit growth at Aristocrat, consistent with our long-term growth strategy.

Operating performance drove strong free cash flow generation, which was in turn invested to fund further growth, pay progressive dividend increases and provide significant balance sheet optionality for the future.

I do want to take the opportunity to acknowledge our customers whose partnership we'd never take for granted. We are highly focused on bringing more value, options and performance to our customers and to our players and to putting their perspectives at the heart of everything we do. Also want to thank our exceptional team of over 6,400 Aristocrat people around the world. Their talent are used in contribution to our culture has not only powered our recent performance but also our confidence to invest for the long-term and our expanding ambitions for the future.

With that, I'll now conclude the formal presentation and open the line to any questions. Thank you.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions)

Your first question today comes from Kane Hannan with Goldman Sachs.

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Kane Hannan, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - Research Analyst [2]

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Just 3 for me, please. Firstly, just looking at the FY '20 outlined sales expectations in North America, you're obviously expecting growth in the adjacent units. But can you comment on your expectations both for the replacement cycles in the U.S. and Australia and whether you should be expecting growth in your core units?

Secondly, just on the digital business and the RAID earnings during the year. Can you just comment whether that was breakeven for the full year and whether you're expecting that game to be profitable in FY '20?

And then finally, just on the -- on building working capital during the year. Can you just talk about what drove that outcome and how we should be thinking about your cash conversion in FY '20?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [3]

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Great. Thanks, Kane. I appreciate that. I'll have to have a go with the first 2 and leave the third one for Julie.

So financial year '20, let's set right where we see the outright sales business. So we're seeing more moderate churn in the Australian marketplace, which is what we saw in '19 continuing into '20. So this is largely a capped market in Australia with a fairly consistent replacement cycle, and we see it reverting back to historical rates from an Australian point of view. From a U.S. perspective, we saw just under 10,000 units of expansion in FY '19. We don't expect to see the same amount of expansion in FY '20. So we probably expect the market to sit at around 68,000 replacement and around 8,000 of new and expansion as an estimate at this point in time based on industry feedback.

If we then talk about adjacencies, we continue to see opportunity in adjacencies, both adjacencies that we have already entered and other adjacencies being VLT markets going forward. So I think the way I can characterize it is a pretty stable churn rate in Australia, slightly smaller expansions in North America but the same replacement cycle and the ability for us to continue to take share in both of those markets and also to participate in adjacencies.

On your RAID question about was it breakeven full year. We continue to invest in RAID because the economics behind RAID are still there, the scaling and the ability to buy UA. And as you know, digital is a very data-driven business so we're able to look at return on investment for every single day. And from our perspective, it's subject to breakeven. It's really based off the ability to scale at the moment. We're still able to continue to scale the RAID performance based off the revenue numbers and the ability to buy good UA.

So the breakeven is really subject to that, and the long-term value at the moment still encourages us to invest behind RAID to continue to scale cohorts early in the game performance. But we're very encouraged by the performance. And I think given the support by the platforms as well, we believe that game has got some runway still.

And Julie, if you'd just talk...

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Julie Cameron-Doe, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CFO [4]

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Sure. Thanks, Trevor.

In terms of working capital, so at 5.6% of revenue, it's in line with where we were at the half. It's obviously higher than where we were at this time last year, which I think we commented at the time, was a very low point in the cycle. If you look at what drives it, I mean we have -- as you know, we have great free cash flow generation within the business, and 5.6% is a small amount of working capital to be tied up at any point in time. So that is one of the benefits of having such an asset-light business.

We did launch quite a lot of new hardware, as we mentioned, in the second half and quite a lot of it came pretty late in the period as well towards the end of the year, so you would see -- part of this is a buildup of receivables as we got closer to year-end, and we had the new product going out, such as Mars and Bar Top. So it's driven by the land-based business and where we are at in that product release cycles. Which I'd like to sort of flag is kind of contrasting with the prior year, when you remember a lot of our releases in the prior year -- this time last year actually came out after the year-end, and we had quite a lot of pent-up demand in the October period last year.

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Operator [5]

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Next question comes from Larry Gandler with Crédit Suisse.

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Larry Gandler, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director [6]

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A couple of questions for me. Just on digital social casino. It looks like you guys did a pretty good job of stabilizing sequentially, social casino revenues based on your gains -- revenue disclosure there. Just wondering if you can walk us through when the live ops initiatives and the collectibles kind of kicked in and you started to see that turnaround in social casino and maybe talk about it by a few of the games.

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [7]

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Yes. Thanks, Larry. I appreciate the question. We certainly -- we saw in Q4, our Q4 stability and some better growth coming out of the social casino business. Predominantly, it was really around Cashman and Lightning Link where we added in the features, collectibles in Cashman, and missions in Lightning Link. And those activities were positive for us. We also had initiatives in the Big Fish portfolio and social casino as well in the same quarter, which was both -- all of those were positive.

There were a couple that didn't quite fire at the rate we wanted to, and we've been refining those and we have those down for releases later in the portfolio. But one of the confidence factors we had around digital for FY '20 and social casino, particularly, is that we have focused on these features and we have confidence around understanding how those features can add value as far as retention goes, and we'll continue to roll those out across the portfolio for the balance of FY '20.

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Larry Gandler, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director [8]

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I'll just switch to land-based, Trevor. In terms of VLT and Class II, 2 sort of separate segments there, what's your sort of outlook for opportunity for new installs? And I'm referring not to taking share but more to expansion in that overall market. We're starting to see Class II machines perform at Class III levels, so that is attractive to the venues. Oklahoma is adding some casinos and maybe even Washington state, there may be some Class II opportunities. So can you talk through the expansion opportunity in Class II?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [9]

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Sure. I might just -- I think you asked the VLT as well, so I'll just quickly touch on VLT and then go to Class 2, if that's okay?

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Larry Gandler, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director [10]

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Yes.

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [11]

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So we are now in 2 provinces, which is ALC and Manitoba in the last year, and we did talk to the market about entering those categories a year ago. A little bit to Julie's point about pent-up demand, and we've been able to penetrate those, and we see some repeat purchases. As you know, those are business to government, so the request for proposal and the request for product comes through on a non-predictable basis, and then we participate in that, but we have the ability to participate there. We had since entered Oregon. And we are on trial in Oregon now, and we will continue to enter other VLT markets through financial year '20.

If I talk about Class II from Oklahoma expansion point of view, there is -- amidst this small Oklahoma expansion going on, we continue to participate in mechanical opportunities expansion and video opportunities. But mechanical is still a predominant format within Oklahoma. We do see growth outside of Oklahoma, in California, Alabama and Florida, where a market -- these are markets where we don't have a Class II video solution, and we are able to make good Class II games to participate in those markets.

So that's where we're heading from a Class II point of view and a video point of view, is largely outside of Oklahoma at the moment. There has been talk of expansion in Oklahoma. As I said, there's been slight expansion. There is some conversation around compact at the moment, so we're waiting to see the outcome of that.

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Operator [12]

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The next question is from Matt Ryan with UBS.

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Matthew H. Ryan, UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Executive Director and Research Analyst [13]

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Maybe a question for Julie just to get started. I noticed that within the outlook statement there was no comment around margins for the land-based. And I guess the question was really specific to North America, where I think in the 2019 year you had a lot of new products which was scaling. And you just mentioned a couple in VLT and Washington CDS. So I guess, just thinking about margins moving forward, can you just talk through the different drivers for that market?

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Julie Cameron-Doe, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CFO [14]

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Yes. Thanks, Matt. You'll note in the outlook statement, we did actually include a comment in there which was about SG&A broadly rather than just corporate costs. And really, what we're talking about there is that there will be impacts on margin across the business. That of course, applies to North America as much it applies to the rest of the business. So that was really where we were talking about margins in the outlook statement.

If you think about margins, I know we've talked about moderation coming through, and we have seen it yet. And we're very -- as we've said before, we generate very healthy margins in our U.S. business, and we're also conscious of the need to invest in the business to ensure that we can continue to scale and grow it. I mentioned we're guiding to moderate increase in SG&A. And this is coming from the anticipation that we know we're going to be investing in digital, data and transformation skill sets across the business, in addition to cyber, insurance,and other costs to operate. So that's really where this expectation on our margins in North America will moderate.

If you think about FY '19, we didn't see the full year impact of these items, and the expansion into the new adjacencies has not been a full year impact yet. So we could see further expansion in margins, but we do still expect moderation going forward.

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Matthew H. Ryan, UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Executive Director and Research Analyst [15]

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And maybe a question for Trevor, just looking at Social Casino. I'm just trying to get some, I guess, more high-level sort thoughts on the strategy there. And I guess, where I'm coming from is that we can see the growth in the market slowing which you've outlined in your results today. But I'm just curious on sort of how you're viewing the business, the ability to, I guess, penetrate further and whether you think maybe this is time to, I guess, monetize and maybe try to, I guess, just run it a little bit more for profit rather than trying to grow the top line.

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [16]

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Yes, sure. Thanks, Matt. I appreciate the comment.

First of all, we have seen Social Casino market slow as a total market over the year. I think that -- obviously, we're calling it at about 5.6% at the moment. So that slowed by probably around 6% to 7% from when we spoke to the market last. So we are seeing that maturity in that market generally across the board.

We also see it as a pretty strong fundamental market. The market is a solid market. The game offering and the solutions are very solid, so there is an element of play that people like with it and stay within that. I think the other thing here is that we have a very solid #2 position in that market. We have a -- our position where we understand certain segments and participate in some of the segments in the overall social casino business. So there is good margins in social casino, and I think you'll know that the sort of margins that you've seen from our business historically. And we are able to leverage both our land-based content and also land-based talent.

And as to one of the earlier questions, we are building a number of features now which broadens the appeal of the social casino businesses in that genre, and that's making them -- not making them, but increasing the relevance across the overall market, where historically, we've participated largely in the land-based component and also in the social component.

So we feel that whilst the market's not necessarily going to grow and DAU is largely flat, that it's still a very good, viable market. And as said, we have a strong #2 position with innovation coming through and also new products that we plan for late 2020.

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Matthew H. Ryan, UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Executive Director and Research Analyst [17]

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I mean how -- do you think there was an impact during the period from lower UA into Social Casino? Did that drive maybe slower growth at the top line over the last 6 months?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [18]

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Well, the way we apply UA is based on the return metrics. So where we were adding features, we would have been taking different approaches to UA. Where we've added features, we will be using UA for different sorts of reengagement and retention. So really, that's a pretty dynamic process from that perspective. We are seeing DAU softening in social casino, so it's not seeing the strong growth that we have seen over the number of years, which has really driven the top line growth.

But from a UA point of view, we get good return on our UA dollars in Social Casino, and we're rather deploy it with the key features and the priorities we want for Social Casino.

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Operator [19]

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Your next question comes from Bryan Raymond with Citi.

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Bryan Raymond, Citigroup Inc, Research Division - VP & Analyst [20]

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Look, my first question's just on RAID as well, actually. Just trying to get a feel for the profile of profitability for RAID once you guys do determine that the UA phase is largely complete. If you could -- maybe if you could outline the other costs in the business beyond platform, please, obviously, and UA, which would be in that business and where you would expect it to monetize once that you're able to start there?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [21]

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Yes, I'll just make a comment of how we see it scaling and I'll let Julie talk to some of the details around the economics it.

First of all, these digital businesses are an investment based on very simple metrics. And the RAID continues to provide great KPIs for us from a return on investment as far as UA dollar spend and LTV value. It is going into a segment that's got strong growth profile, and it is still taking share within that growth profile. So we're continuing to see that the investment in RAID is a viable investment at this early stage, and we've spoken to the market in the past about these early cohorts being the best cohort in games.

So we're very happy with the growth that we're continuing to see upgrade from a top line point of view, from a DAU point of view and also from an ARPDAU point of view. It's not, at this point, where we would stop spend because the returns are there, and we monitor this on a daily basis and can see the value that, that's bringing.

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Julie Cameron-Doe, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CFO [22]

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Thanks, Trevor. I might just add a bit more about the dynamics around the business.

As you think about the way the digital margins stack up, you have a 30% platform fee, which obviously come off all of the revenues there, and then you have user acquisition as the next largest cost. And as you know, over time -- over the course of the year, we guide to 25% to 28% of digital revenues in the UA.

D&D, which obviously is the design of a game, that we've -- historically, we've allocated between 11% to 12% on D&D across the group. And if you think about that from a digital perspective, that's really the studios that are building that game. Now the game, if you think about the games and how they run, they're not games like you might do when you finish them and put it out to market and you're done. They're actually -- we term them live services, so you continue to work on them over time. So it may be that the size of the team that's been working on RAID would get smaller, but it would still be a meaningful amount of people that continue to work on RAID, continue to drive the live ops and the features that are in RAID and keep it a compelling place to encourage players to come back and play. So there would continue to be costs there going forward from that D&D perspective.

And then obviously, there's the whole SG&A side of running a business, which is continuing to grow and scale. If you think about it over the long term, with a great performance there, there's variable compensation as well. So as that business grows, then we -- that would also become a larger part of the cost out, too.

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Bryan Raymond, Citigroup Inc, Research Division - VP & Analyst [23]

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Okay. Just in terms of the timeline of monetization in RAID. When we were at the digital meeting at G2E, management mentioned there's another 6 to 12 months of UA ahead, because they see good returns on that UA over that time period. I just wanted to check if that's still the current view of primarily yourselves in terms of that reinvestment phase or whether there's anything would've changed for you since we last spoke.

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [24]

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Yes, I'm sorry. Yes, absolutely. We still hold that view, that the effort's still scaling and the key metrics around LTV and CPI are stacking up. And whilst those continue to stack up, we'll continue to invest. So at this point in time, we're confident with that growth. And you have this -- you guys can see it through our value that the effort continues to grow.

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Bryan Raymond, Citigroup Inc, Research Division - VP & Analyst [25]

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Okay. And I think it's 12 months until we're able to confirm that continued investment?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [26]

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At this point in time, whilst -- yes, absolutely. At this point in time, we're seeing it continue, so -- but that's the best guidance we can give you at the moment.

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Julie Cameron-Doe, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CFO [27]

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Yes, I think in the outlook, we do reference that user acquisition is applied dynamically based on the performance of the game. So as we continue to see those strong metrics coming in, we'll continue to invest behind it.

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Bryan Raymond, Citigroup Inc, Research Division - VP & Analyst [28]

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Okay. Great. Just my other question, just on the dividend. I was under the impression you guys have more of a progressive dividend where you obviously gradually increase. I mean there's quite a step-up in the second half. I just want to understand how you're thinking about the longer-term earnings outlook. Do you still hold the view that you have a progressive dividend and that you would want to increase it gradually from this new pretty nice level? Or are you thinking about it more dynamically in terms of the earnings performance of the business and more efficient payout ratio?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [29]

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Okay. I'll just -- I'll frame up with what we think about it from a capital point of view and how we see our business, and let Julie talk about the details. But we generated over $1 billion of cash in the year which gave us the ability to reinvest the growth into D&D and also with UA, which are the 2 key levers we have to drive growth and continue to drive growth. We have had the dividend, and obviously, paying down debt, and we do want to pay a progressive dividend. And I'll let Julie talk to detail behind that.

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Julie Cameron-Doe, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CFO [30]

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Yes, to your point, I'd just echo, we have a strong cash-generating business which gives us lots of optionality. We -- as you know, we prioritize funding our own growth through D&D, either acquisition and gaining of CapEx. And then we have the option to also fund inorganic growth should those opportunities arrive.

We've taken the approach of continuing to grow our dividends over time. We're currently benefiting from full franking, so that's a good way of rewarding our shareholders. And we also balance that with retiring debt. So we believe we've been consistent in our application of that practice of continuing to grow our dividend over time. And at this -- until we -- as we continue to generate strong cash flows and we continue to see our gearing come down, I think in the future, we will talk more to you about other options there. But at this point in time, we're comfortable with how we've been growing our dividend over time and balancing that with growing the business and retiring debt.

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Operator [31]

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Your next question comes from David Fabris with Macquarie.

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David Fabris, Macquarie Research - Research Analyst [32]

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I've got a few questions. Most of them have been covered off, but I just wanted to backtrack on a few things. So just focusing back on North America land-based, are you able to break down the unit sales contribution by product segments in FY '19 so we can get a handle on sort of the VLTs, Washington CDS, stepper and Bar Top as a starting point and then I'll come in with another question, please?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [33]

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Yes, we can. I think there's a slide in the deck which has the adjacencies slide. It's in the appendices, Slide 29. But I will give you the breakdowns -- the directional breakdowns of what we're talking about here.

So we saw video -- small contribution from video year-over-year growth, which was, as expected, we continue to take share there. From a stepper point of view, it's really contributed about 10% -- sorry, about 4% of growth as far as incremental growth goes. So stepper is getting up to around just short of 1,000 units in the year. From a Bar Top of view, remembering that was released late in the year, so there's only a very small amount of Bar Top in there as far as contribution goes and contributed a couple of percentage points to the overall contribution as well. VLT was just short of 1,000 units for VLT, so it's about 7% of the growth year-over-year.

So the total growth from adjacencies was around about 3,000 units or about 16%. And then the other one was Washington CDS, which realistically was around about 1,300-odd units contributing growth in the year.

And that's the sort of the makeup of the adjacencies that were incremental to video. And like I said, we continue to see ourselves taking share in core video and then entering these adjacencies for new market opportunities and growth.

But the other piece of that, just to align everybody, is that those adjacencies have a lower ASP. And that's where, to Julie's point earlier about margins, just some of those lower ASPs in those adjacencies, we're taking a long-term view on how we penetrate these markets and create content to provide an overall solution for our customers over time.

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David Fabris, Macquarie Research - Research Analyst [34]

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Great. And then the next question is for Julie, and just focusing on the balance sheet. I mean if we think about the fact you're doing $1 billion of discretionary free cash flow, leverage is reducing sharply. If you look at your fundamentals, you're trading at a discount to the market, you've got faster period of growth, so you're cheap, which is rare in the market at this stage. Can you comment on why the Board is not considering capital management? And I know you sort of answered a question earlier. But when will you come to the market with a strategy around the optimal capital structure for Aristocrat?

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Julie Cameron-Doe, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CFO [35]

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Yes. Thanks, David. Look, as I said before, we're in this -- we're in a great position of generating such strong free cash flows and having a business model that enables us to grow and generate strong free cash flow. So clearly, we've gone from 1.7x to 1.4x in the year, and we're on a good trajectory to continue to progress that.

The Board does have an active dialogue with us about that. And we like the optionality that we have with the balance sheet we have, given that we're able to fund our growth organically and inorganically. But as you see, if that trajectory should continue, absent any significant M&A, then we will certainly come back with more to talk about, in terms of capital management.

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David Fabris, Macquarie Research - Research Analyst [36]

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Can you give us a feel for any targeted leverage range we should be thinking about within your business?

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Julie Cameron-Doe, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CFO [37]

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We're comfortable with where we've historically been tracking over the last couple of years. So we are comfortable in that range that we're currently in. We're not talking about a targeted range at this point.

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Operator [38]

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Your next question comes from Sacha Krien with Evans & Partners.

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Sacha Krien, Evans & Partners Pty. Ltd., Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [39]

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I've got 3 questions. First of all, on digital margins, they held up very well in the second half despite the ramp-up of RAID. I'm just wondering how we'd think about that going forward into FY '20, given it sounds like you're going to continue to spend on RAID. The casual is really driving more of the top line growth. Is that -- are we possibly looking at some contraction into FY '20?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [40]

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Yes. Thanks, Sacha. I'll ask Julie to answer that question for you.

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Julie Cameron-Doe, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CFO [41]

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Thanks, Sacha. Yes, we aren't guiding to digital margins. I think what we're trying to do there is find posts we have. Obviously, the platform clears at 30%, and then user acquisition at 25% to 28%. But I'm posting very clearly that user acquisition is a dynamic area of spend, and it depends on the performance of the game. And so if we see great opportunities to spend on a game such as we did on RAID in FY '19, then we'll be taking them. And that's one of the reasons we don't really want to guide to a specific margin there because we're very much focused on the long-term growth of the business.

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Sacha Krien, Evans & Partners Pty. Ltd., Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [42]

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Yes, that makes sense. I guess a follow-up question to that is, if you see there's opportunities, but your UA spend relative to revenue looks like it might push above 28%, for example, would you look to pull back in other areas?

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Julie Cameron-Doe, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CFO [43]

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If we saw opportunities like that, we would be taking them. We would -- we're very much focused on -- and we would be coming back to you and saying, we have these great opportunities to spend. And actually, as a result, we are seeing that we've gone outside of that range. I think that would be a better place to be than trying to pull back in other areas where we have opportunities to grow the business. So I said, we're very focused on the long-term growth of that business, and that requires us to invest behind the principal game.

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Sacha Krien, Evans & Partners Pty. Ltd., Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [44]

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That makes sense. A question on social casinos, just wondering how much of a drag that the legacy Facebook PC business is on the growth at the moment. Are you're able to provide an indication of how much is left of that legacy business and what the decline was in FY '19?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [45]

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We don't provide that clarity, Sacha, but I will say that we're under-indexed on Facebook across our portfolio. So we continue to focus on iOS and Android, and we have been under-indexed on that platform. Historically, Product Madness has always been very low, and generally, it's about less than 10% across the portfolio of social casino.

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Sacha Krien, Evans & Partners Pty. Ltd., Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [46]

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Yes. Am I right in thinking that it has been a drag, though, over the FY '19 year?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [47]

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No. No, not really. Not of a material nature.

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Sacha Krien, Evans & Partners Pty. Ltd., Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [48]

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Okay. Okay. And then last question, just on the outright sales. Thanks for the breakdown there. I'm just wondering, when I look at your competitor numbers, and both of them -- both your main competitors in the U.S. did about 20,000 units over the last 12 months, and they're pretty much in all those markets you will be in by the end of calendar year '20. Is that sort of the number you aspire to when you're in 100% of the market, like you will be, running into calendar year '20?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [49]

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Yes. I think we continue to aspire to taking share in the markets we're already in, which is video. We see these adjacencies getting stronger and do anticipate to continue to do that.

We're still not in all adjacencies. I know we put 96% by the end of 2020. So we continue to penetrate. The fact of the matter is, they're already incumbent in some of these markets, so they are getting some of the replacements, whereas we're entering. And we continue to drive great game performance as a way of giving ourselves the optionality to enter and also to participate.

We do believe with products like MarsX, particularly, that's going to create churn in the in the for-sale market. A great cabinet has got great performance early days, and we see that as an opportunity. So we're not quite in a 100% line up against them, but we are taking share where we are head-to-head, and we can enter more adjacencies to take more share in time. But we're getting close to the saturation, like you say.

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Operator [50]

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Your next question comes from Rohan Sundram with MST.

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Rohan Sundram, MST Marquee - Gaming and Contractors Analyst [51]

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I might just start with a follow-up question on Social Casino. Can I just confirm if there is an outlook for new game launches in that space, or -- and that's to drive top line. Or do you feel that investing into meta game features and live ops is the best return on spend in that segment?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [52]

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So we believe that in the short term, we haven't been doing enough meta game and live ops, and that's what we've been building over the last year, particularly for Product Madness, and that's taking some of the learnings out of Big Fish. So we continue to see the ability to improve meta game in the Product Madness portfolio, and also insert more of our land-based game design talent and content into the Big Fish portfolio.

We also believe that there's been shifts in the social casino market, and therefore, our new launches will be about addressing some of those shifts in current trends in that category and continuing to monetize good content into new genres with new features and -- capabilities, features and live ops. But in the near term, we have a plan for live ops to continue to monetize in the early parts of this year towards the end, and new content at the end.

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Rohan Sundram, MST Marquee - Gaming and Contractors Analyst [53]

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Okay. And can I also ask, with a game like RAID that's doing so well, and I guess, once you build that up to a certain DAU level over time from experience with other games, how sticky does that DAU base become, upon easing the UA spend? Is there a level where you feel you can get and then you can start to ease off on the steam and still maintain a lot of that player base?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [54]

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Yes. You have different genres which have different levels of commitment, and that is a very committed genre. Once people get into those games, they generally stay for a long time. And I think you can look at the profile of Vikings, for instance, which is now a 5- to 6-year-old game and still has a very strong and stable DAU after that period of time. And this is where, when you think about these digital apps is the investment now to acquire good users early. Then as you continue to add features, meta games, live ops, like Julie said, these are live services-type products, that commitment by players stays in there. And that investment then, you can wind back the UA spend as you get more mature, and they continue to play and stay in the game by using meta games and live ops to do that. But really, genres like Vikings, RAID and (inaudible), which are all in the, if you like, the fastest-growing subgenres of casual, which is simulation strategy and RPG, are very strong product ranges and they're very committed players.

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Operator [55]

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Your next question comes from Larry Gandler with Crédit Suisse.

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Larry Gandler, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director [56]

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Yes, sir, just a follow-up question for me. Dollar Storm being the successor to Dragon Link and Lightning Link, can you just talk about the market that Dollar Storm is being installed into or sold into? It's a little bit different given that it's a wide area progressive, so if the market opportunity is great, and maybe just comment on that.

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [57]

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Yes. Thanks, Larry. It is going into the wide area progressive, which is a smaller segment of the gaming ops market. It is differentiated both in the game plan and also the jackpot structure. It doesn't have the same market opportunity, if this is your question, of Lightning Link and Dragon Link. It is a targeted solution. And as I said, moving into the wide area progressive is a smaller market segment. It does leverage the brand strength of Lightning Link and provide a different solution into our customers for their floor and allows us broader diversity on that floor as well.

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Larry Gandler, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director [58]

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And the yields would be higher. So maybe can you just talk about is it available -- where is it available now?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [59]

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It's been what it has been launched in North America, so it's now being rolled out across the North American market. It will go to other markets. But as you know, web products are not easily installed in other jurisdictions, but it will go across the U.S. and continue to penetrate there. It is on the MarsX cabinet, which, as I said earlier, we're very happy with the early performance of MarsX, and we see it being able to be accretive to the floor for us.

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Larry Gandler, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director [60]

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What I meant, Trevor, by the question is, in the last, say, quarter and this result, was it available in all states or in these past 6 months?

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [61]

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No, Larry. It was only launched in the last 1 or 2 weeks of these financial results, so there's next to nothing in these numbers.

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Operator [62]

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There are no further questions at this time. I'll now hand back to Mr. Croker for closing remarks.

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Trevor J. Croker, Aristocrat Leisure Limited - CEO, MD & Director [63]

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Thank you. Thank you for your ongoing interest in Aristocrat. We appreciate the time that you spent to understand our business and also to engage with conversations with us.

We are very proud of what we've been able to achieve for the year and remain confident about our ability to continue to deliver long-term and sustainable growth for shareholders. We -- to deliver -- as I said, we delivered strong cash flow, and we have the ability to self-fund our reinvestment and also pay down -- sorry, pay dividends and pay down debt.

So thank you for your time, and also, to all those that contribute to this, which is our customers and our employees. But thank you very much. Have a great day.