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Edited Transcript of BETS B.ST earnings conference call or presentation 24-Oct-19 7:00am GMT

Q3 2019 Betsson AB Earnings Call

Stockholm Oct 29, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Betsson AB earnings conference call or presentation Thursday, October 24, 2019 at 7:00:00am GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Martin Öhman

Betsson AB - CFO

* Pontus Lindwall

Betsson AB - CEO & President

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Conference Call Participants

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* Erik Moberg

ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst

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Presentation

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [1]

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Okay. Hello. Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the Betsson presentation of the third quarter 2019. And today, I'm happy to announce that I will share this presentation together with Martin Öhman, our CFO, who will presenting the financial part of the report.

So for the third quarter in brief, the gaming industry is undergoing significant changes, and more markets are getting regulated or they are on the way to become regulated. This means some challenging -- challenges in some markets and some regulated markets are under pressure, and we are operating under new circumstances.

Nevertheless, we have a strong operating income in this challenging quarter, with revenues of SEK 1.275 billion and then the EBIT of SEK 213 million, which is a pretty good margin at close to 17%.

For Betsson, some challenges in a few markets is mitigated at some part by other markets, and it's a good situation for us to be working in several markets so that we have a big geographical diversity.

During the quarter and for the future, we have continued our investments in our own technology, and we see pretty good development on the Sportsbook and the offering that we have in the Sportsbook. We have also prolonged our multiyear sponsorship of Swedish ice hockey, which we are really proud of.

We have issued a bond in order to be able to take care of the growing market and invest in our own development and possibly in M&A activities.

So some recent product and technology initiatives. We have launched multigame window in Casino, which allows customers to enjoy multiple games at the same time on the desktop. We have done, as I mentioned, several enhancements in the Sportsbook. So we have a very competitive offering, especially in the ice hockey. And the Sportsbook is now turning into -- become an attractive third-party product where we get quite a lot of interest from the market on that product.

We have done the ISO 27001 certification, which I will go deeper into on the next slide. We are accredited with ISO 27001, which is a framework for -- to keep our assets secure. We have gone through 116 controls within 14 different categories. And this has happened -- we received the certification in September during the quarter. And why did we do this? This is a way for us to make sure that we have the best data protection available and to make our customers comfortable with our systems and the way we treat their data.

So I usually say that Betsson is more or less a technology company, and that's a really important part of what we do. And Betsson, we have a lot of proprietary technology. We control our technology in-house, and this means that we can differentiate the customer experience to the gaming market and the customer behavior, which is constantly changing. We can control the changes and adapt to certain market changes and market conditions.

So our platform allows scalability, and we are in full control of the product development. This makes it easy for us to migrate acquired companies onto our platform. This will also contribute to, of course, scalability and cost efficiency. And when we have these things in-house, we are in control of the customer experience, and that is the most important part for us.

So speaking on ESG. Betsson work with ESG within several areas, maybe most important one and the central one being responsible gaming, which I will look deeper into, but also to conduct a responsible business in many ways, in all possible ways. And we are trying to be an attractive employer and treat our employees in a good way. And we also take a great environmental responsibility with certain activities.

So regarding player protection, we were actually the first company to hire a person within responsible gaming more than 10 years ago within the Internet gaming industry. So this has been an important part of our efforts ever since. And today, we are in the forefront of this area in this industry. We have a "duty to care" principle in the operations, and we do continuously investments in the responsible gaming area every quarter.

So our business is pretty much dependent on regulatory situations in different jurisdictions, and I want to report a little bit on a few markets. Sweden is, as you know, regulated from 1st of January and it's a very important market for us long term. We believe that it's important to reach a high channelization on this market in order to have a successful market implementation of the new regulation and for the customer protection, of course. We received a fine earlier this year, and we have appealed that one during the quarter.

In the Netherlands, we expect the market to open in first quarter 2021. We have made adjustments to our product offering there, so we are now fully compliant to receive a license at the earliest possible time. We have filed an interest for license in June 2019.

In Italy, there has been a marketing ban with -- effective from 1st of July this year, so that's quite a big change on that market. Still, we see very strong growth on the Italian market despite the marketing ban.

Okay. So now we head into the financial summary, and I'm going to leave the floor to Martin Öhman. Welcome.

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Martin Öhman, Betsson AB - CFO [2]

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Thanks. Figures and comments on the following slides relate to the third quarter and are compared to the same period last year. All figures, all numbers are in Swedish krona.

Revenue for the third quarter was SEK 1.275 billion compared to SEK 1.427 billion the same quarter last year. The Betsson Group is geographically well diversified and has partly been able to mitigate the decrease in revenue from the Nordic and the Western Europe regions by growth in several other markets.

Sportsbook revenue is down by 7% in third quarter. But if we exclude the World Cup effect, it is in line with last year. Casino revenue is down 12%.

Part of total revenue is made up by license revenue amounting to SEK 138 million, which is an increase of SEK 76 million compared to the same period last year. And the increase in -- is mainly due to -- sorry. Yes, the license revenue amounted to SEK 138 million, which is an increase of SEK 76 million compared to the same period last year. The increase is mainly due to enhanced performance in the Sportsbook delivered by Betsson to our B2B partner, Realm.

Mobile revenue, as share of total revenue, increased from 7 -- 67% to 72% in the third quarter. Gross profit amounted to SEK 831 million compared to SEK 1.010 billion same quarter last year, corresponding to a gross margin of 65.2%.

Cost of services provided has increased in the third quarter by SEK 27 million. Increased cost is mainly related to increased betting duties in Sweden and Italy as well as increased payment costs. Negative exchange rate fluctuation also impacted the gross profit by some SEK 4 million in the quarter.

Thanks to continuous work on operational efficiency, operating expenses have decreased by SEK 51 million, corresponding to an 8% decrease. This is mainly explained by lower marketing cost and personnel cost.

Other external expenses have also decreased, but is offset by increased amortization and depreciations due to implementation of the IFRS 16, the leasing standard, with the impact that rental cost for properties is now reported as depreciation and financial expenses instead of other external expenses.

EBIT amounted to SEK 213 million and EBIT margin is 16.7%. The decrease in both EBIT and EBIT margin is mainly explained by lower revenue and increase of cost of service provided, but partly mitigated by operating expenses.

Looking at the breakdown by region. We can see a decrease in both the Nordics and the Western Europe compared to the same period last year. The CEECA region and the Rest of the World show growth in revenue, but cannot fully offset the decrease in the 2 larger regions.

In the Nordic region, we see continued weak market developments due to regulatory changes. According to governmental figures, the channelization in Sweden is over 90%. However, other industrial sources question this figure. The combination of the channelization and increased competition from new players has affected Betsson's revenue in Sweden.

The Norwegian market is still suffering from payment blockings imposed by the Norwegian government in the beginning of 2019. However, Betsson's own platform gives Betsson the flexibility to take quick actions to offer customers alternative payment solutions, resulting in Betsson being able to maintain customer trust, although to a higher cost for payment providers, also affecting the gross margin in Norway.

We have in previous presentation described the actions that we have taken in the Netherlands to be able -- to be in the best possible position for license when the market opens up for regulation. This had, had an impact on the revenue since we are no longer allowed to approach new customers, and we saw a steep drop in the first quarter this year. It is still hard to predict the market conditions until regulation, but we hope that the regulator will focus on customer protection and channelization starting already now, although the market is not yet open.

Although Betsson have been facing challenges also in the CEECA region, such as increased gaming tax and the market ban in Italy, we see a positive trend with an overall growth in the CEECA region and also in the Rest of the World, a lot thanks to the strong Sportsbook offering developed by Betsson.

In Q3, Betsson offered some 44,000 live betting events reflecting a competitive offer. Minor intra-year variations in the number. Offered events are explained by seasonality in the game seasons.

Sportsbook gross turnover in all Betsson gaming solutions amounted to SEK 6.179 billion and is comparable to the same period last year and also comparable to the second quarter this year.

Sportsbook revenue third quarter amounted to SEK 350 million, which is a decrease of 7%, and the decline is mainly explained by the Nordics, where we see the Swedish regulation and the payment blocking in Norway as the 2 main explanations to the decrease.

Sportsbook revenue in Western Europe is flat, and we see an increase from the CEECA region and the Rest of the World. Excluding the revenue from the football World Cup last year, Sportsbook's revenue is in line with last year.

Sportsbook margin was 7.8%, which is slightly higher than the 8-quarter rolling average of 7.2%. Mobile Sportsbook accounted for 81% of Sportsbook revenue. And the total Sportsbook revenue presented 25% of group's total revenue. Casino revenue added up to 74%.

Betsson's current casino offers includes 2,700 casino games, of which 2,000 is offered on mobile devices. Casino revenue amounted to SEK 942 million, which is a decrease of 12% compared to the same period last year and is mainly explained by the impact from Swedish regulation and adjustment in the offering in Netherlands.

Comparing Q3 revenues to Q2 revenues, we see casino revenue growth coming mainly from Western Europe, CEECA region and the Rest of World, offsetting the decline in the Nordic regions. Mobile Casino revenue's share as part of total Casino revenue increased from 64% to 71% this year.

Betsson has a high cash conversion ratio and show operating cash flow of SEK 307 million out of an EBIT of SEK 230 million (sic) [SEK 213 million], which is mainly driven by operating income and, to some extent, positively affected by changes in working capital.

The majority of Betsson's cash flow from investing activities relates to investments in our proprietary technology. And higher investments in Q3 compared to the same period in 2018 can be explained by increased focus on product development and primarily on Sportsbook-related development.

Cash flow from financing activities amounted to SEK 235 million, comprised 2 major events. Firstly, we have taken up a new bond of SEK 1 billion, as Pontus said earlier, and the total framework of SEK 2.5 billion. Secondly, we have redeemed the majority of the old bond, except the SEK 235 million, which has been redeemed in October.

The new bond is a new -- is an unsecured bond with a maturity of -- in the 26th of September in 2022. The group rate is STIBOR 3 months plus 400 basis points, and the other conditions are in line, the same as the old bond.

Betsson has a low leverage, and as end of September, a net debt amounting to SEK 278 million (sic) [SEK 478 million], implying a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 0.4 and an equity-to-asset ratio of 59%.

I hand over to Pontus for a summary.

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [3]

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Okay. Thank you, Martin. So to summarize the third quarter, the revenue was impacted by regulatory challenges. Still, we managed to show another strong quarter in terms of cost control, which gives us good results and good cash conversion anyway.

We are confident about the long-term opportunities. We see strong developments in the Sportsbook, and we have commercial opportunities for that product. We're going to increase focus on geographical spread and look for new markets to establish on. We're going to keep continue working on our cost efficiencies throughout the organization to secure the strong EBIT that we have.

So I believe that Betsson's strong financial position and our technology provide a very strong foundation to manage market changes and to offer competitive product solutions.

Yes, that's it, and I think we leave it there for questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [1]

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We start here in this room if we have any questions from the audience. It doesn't seem so. Okay, then we go to questions from the telephone. Do we have any?

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Operator [2]

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(Operator Instructions) So we have a question from Erik Moberg from ABG.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [3]

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So overall, you are showing negative growth rates and your trading update was rather underwhelming. At the same time, you're cutting down in marketing. How sort of will you be able to get back to growth? What is your strategy?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [4]

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Of course, we show -- it's easy for anyone to understand that we show a decline compared to last year. But if you look what we write in the report of the fourth quarter, has started with growth compared to the third quarter, so we are in a phase of growth already now. And of course, we have to adjust marketing spendings according to different situations on different markets.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [5]

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All right. But if we exclude Turkey, could you perhaps give us some flavor on the underlying margin? Because to me, it looks like the only thing that is currently holding up EBIT is Turkey and that the fact that you continued to cut down on marketing, because if you compare to Q2, marketing expenses were down roughly SEK 20 million.

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [6]

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Yes. That's normal to allocate marketing between different quarters. And as we're writing the report, we have chosen to bring down marketing in Sweden during this quarter. But it doesn't mean that we will bring it down forever.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [7]

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But could you perhaps elaborate a bit on the underlying performance of Betsson if we exclude for Turkey?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [8]

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Yes, I think the underlying performance is great. We are growing in the majority of our markets, so it's a very strong development.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [9]

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All right. But looking into 2020, how sort of -- how will you be able to get back to growth? Do we expect to get back to growth in Sweden? Or what's sort of your game plan for 2020? Because if you -- I assume that you will be able to -- that you will have to sort of start investing quite a lot in marketing, if that's your plan. And if you look for current expectations there, everyone assumes that you're going to be able to grow EBIT into 2020. Do you think that's a feasible goal?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [10]

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We're not going to go into the strategy of how we're going to grow next year. But we have -- we are a growth company and we're going to continue to grow. There are challenges from time to time on certain markets, but the underlying ambition to grow faster than the market remains. But we're not going to go into details on how to achieve that next year.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [11]

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Could you just perhaps give us some flavor on how much you planned on increased marketing spending into 2020?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [12]

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No, I cannot go into that. I can't even comment if it's a plan to increase or not. So that's nothing that we state to the market at this point of time.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [13]

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All right. And in regards of gross margins, it's a drop, and a lot of that stemmed from the increase in cost of payment provider, which was roughly SEK 25 million or so. I have asked about this previously, and you mentioned that you change payment providers all the time.

Could you perhaps elaborate a bit on the amount of payment provider returns they have in Norway and how it differs versus 1 year ago? And also has there been any sort of increases or changes Q-on-Q?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [14]

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I can't comment on the number of payment providers that we have, but I can assure that we have a very strong technology in order to support several different payment providers. So we are in a really good position in that regard.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [15]

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How many -- how -- during the past 12 months, how many of your payment service providers in Norway have been shut down?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [16]

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I can't answer that question. But it's -- we change payment providers. It's a normal course of business. So it's -- but it's nothing -- it's not a figure that we report in the report.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [17]

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All right. But the ratio, things like cost to suppliers to sales, is this ratio the same we should assume for -- into Q4? Or how should we perceive that?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [18]

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We don't give any forecast on the payment cost ratio. And you have to keep in mind that payment cost in the report is not only from one market, it's from many different markets. So it's a mixture.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [19]

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All right. Could you perhaps give us some flavor on how much of the increase stemmed from Norway?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [20]

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No. No, I can't.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [21]

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All right. Looking into Q4, could you give us a flavor on how Turkey has started? It is facing tough comps on a year-over-year basis. I mean it has been one of the most crucial drivers for the past quarters, both on EBIT and for top line. Could you perhaps give us some -- do you expect to grow Q-on-Q in Turkey? Or how should we perceive the competitive landscape there?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [22]

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I don't comment on Turkey per se, but Turkey is, of course, a Sportsbook-driven market. And together with other Sportsbook strong markets, we expect to see a strong -- we expect to see an uptick because the Sportsbook is performing really well. So that goes more or less automatically.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [23]

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All right. And in terms of Georgia, could you give any sort of flavor how that developed if we compare Q2 to Q3?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [24]

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I cannot -- I don't comment on that specific market.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [25]

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And no comments on how it has developed sequentially into Q4?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [26]

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No.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [27]

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But looking into 2020 again, would it be fair to assume that it's sort of like Turkey, Georgia and also the Rest of the World that you're assuming to grow -- those regions that you're assuming to grow in? Or how should we perceive that? Because all right, with Europe, you have Netherlands. I assume Netherlands would be relatively similar to 2019 because you cannot really use [idealistic] payment service providers and you can't really do any affiliate marketing until the market regulates.

Then we have Sweden which will, I assume, will continue to be somewhat challenging. Obviously, we'll have a positive effect from the Euro championship in soccer. But would it be fair to assume it's Turkey, Georgia and sort of Peru and the Rest of the World that you're assuming to grow in?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [28]

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No, we expect to see growth across a lot of markets. But you are right in the fact that Netherlands, of course, will be hard to grow given the fact that we cannot market and we do not market, and we are a little bit limited in our activities there until we receive the license.

Sweden remains to be seen, still an open playing field. It's going to be very, I would say, exciting to see next year for Sweden. But apart from that, we expect to grow on a lot of markets, which we have done also this year.

Thank you. So do we have any more questions on the phone?

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Operator [29]

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No questions registered at the moment. (Operator Instructions)

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [30]

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Okay. So no more phone questions. Then we're going to see if we have -- we have nothing on the web. And then we go back to the audience again. With this new information, any questions from you? I guess not. Everybody is up for coffee.

Okay. Thanks for this. See you next time. Bye.