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

Q2 2019 Betsson AB Earnings Call

Solna Jul 22, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Betsson AB earnings conference call or presentation Friday, July 19, 2019 at 7:00:00am GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Pontus Lindwall

Betsson AB - CEO & President

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Conference Call Participants

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* Christian Hellman

Nordea Markets, Research Division - Director of Small and Mid Cap

* Erik Moberg

ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst

* Hjalmar Ahlberg

Kepler Cheuvreux, Research Division - Equity Research Analyst

* Martin Arnell

DNB Markets, Research Division - Analyst

* Oscar Erixon

Carnegie Investment Bank AB, Research Division - Financial Analyst

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Presentation

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

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Hi all. Welcome to the presentation of the Betsson second quarter results.

So I start with some highlights. We have revenues of SEK 1,278 million and positive Sportsbook development despite challenging World Cup 2018 comparatives. I'm really proud about that, our proprietary Sportsbook performing really well across all markets. We have a good geographical spread that help us absorb some of the regulatory challenges that we see in some markets.

We have an EBIT of SEK 197 million and an EBIT margin of 15.4%. And this figure is burdened by the SGA fine of SEK 19 million. We still work with cost efficiencies and we have an underlying EBIT margin of close to 17%. One of our subsidiaries, NGG, got a fine of SEK 19 million from the Swedish Gaming Authority and that has been appealed.

So for the financial summary. Revenues, I mentioned. Sportsbook revenue growth of 14% with a gross turnover organic growth of 7%. Sportsbook margin slightly higher than the average of 7.8%. Our casino revenues declined by 10%. And that is mainly due to the adjustments we have done in local markets, in a few of our major markets, namely Sweden and Netherlands. We continue to work with cost efficiencies and the company is quite efficient. And we see an OpEx decline in most major costs.

So that makes up for an EBIT of SEK 197 million. And that's impacted of course by the Swedish gaming tax, as in the previous quarter, and some higher payment costs compared to the same period last year and the SGA fine, which came during the second quarter. So EBIT margin of 15.4% and an underlying EBIT margin of 16.9%.

If we look at the split between the different regions, we see a decline in the second quarter in the Nordics and the Western Europe regions. And these are 2 of our -- these are actually the 2 biggest regions that we have. In the case of Nordics, it's mainly due to the Swedish regulation. But it's important to know that after the initial drop we saw in the first quarter, we have stabilized in the second quarter and we look forward to a more positive development in Sweden.

To comment a little bit on the Western Europe. It's the adjustments that we have done in the Netherlands. And in the same way, this adjustment made up for revenue decline when we made them. But after that initial decline, the revenues has now stabilized and the second quarter revenues is on par with the revenues by the end of the first quarter. So business is still going well.

Next region, CEECA, showed quite a big increase compared to last year and the same goes for the Rest of the World. But these regions are comparably smaller for us. And therefore, they can't make up for the decreases we saw in Nordics and Western Europe.

So Sportsbook development. The Sportsbook gross turnover increased by 7% organically and we had a really strong Sportsbook performance with close to 50,000 live betting events in the second quarter. We have stated for a very long time that Sportsbook is a very important product for us, it's a unique selling point and we own our own technology. And for that reason, I'm very happy to see that we are really performing well and the customers out there seem to prefer our Sportsbook compared to many others on the market.

So on the casino side, we offer close to 2,700 casino games, of which 2,000 on the mobile. The casino revenues decreased by 10% and the decline is mainly in Nordics and Western Europe. And the reason for that, I already mentioned, is the -- it is the regulations in Sweden and the adjustments we have done in Netherlands. The mobile casino revenue increased 3%. So that's really encouraging and it shows that we are really strong in our mobile offering. We have launched the OBG on desktop for our core brands and we have launched a new brand called liveroulette.com during the quarter.

It's a lot about regulatory in this business. And I want to comment a little bit on that. Sweden is an important market for us long term, it's our home territory. And we aim to grow here with sustainability. During this quarter, we had a fine of SEK 19 million, which we have appealed. In the Netherlands, the market is expected to open in the first quarter of 2021. That may be delayed. Betsson has made adjustments to the product offering and we are now compliant with the cooling-off period. We have filed an expression of interest for license in June. In -- Betsson has also applied for license in the province of Buenos Aires during the quarter.

So I want to mention a few words of technology because this industry is -- the product is really important and it's about technology. And our proprietary technology secures our future. We can work with differentiating the customer experience as we control our technology. And this slide here shows what we control out of our technology, which is a lot of the core business-critical assets like the sites, of course, and the apps; the gaming platform; the payment platform, which is very flexible and allows us to adapt to certain changes in certain markets; we control the Sportsbook platform, which we own and develop and that's a really strong USP as we can develop the product according to our ideas of what the customers are looking for and it has proven to be really successful; we also own our data platform, where we compile all our data and analysts -- and do our analysis of our operations. And that's our proprietary technology. And through this technology, there are a lot of other products and services connected through different APIs.

So some of the technology initiatives that we have done recently. We have rebranded a few sites, 2 sites in the Netherlands. And we have launched a new site called liveroulette.com. We have launched the OBG platform in new markets and it's rolled out completely for Betsson, Betsafe and NordicBet. We have made a lot of work on the Sportsbook, small things and big things, which we deem important for the clients. We have added more markets. And we had 458 pre-match betting markets on the Champions League final, which was one of the largest offerings in the industry. We have integrated more of 90% of our games into the mobile Game Frame on the mobile. So we now have a really good customer experience on the mobile.

Apart from technology in this industry, it is also important to work with responsible gaming and player protection. And this is something that is really important for the whole company of Betsson. We were actually one of the first companies to hire a person for responsible gaming, which we did more than 10 years ago. And today, we have a full team of people working only with these important questions. We have the duty to care principle in the operations, which means that we always care about the customers. And we invest more in responsible gaming than what is required by law and regulation. So this is something where we really want to be in the forefront.

We do analysis of the customer behavior in order to find out more deep knowledge about our customers. And some of the recent developments and initiatives we have done in this area is that we have been to the big conference in Finland with focus on problem gambling. We have documentation of all our customer communication. We have categorization of our customers based on a lot of different attributes. We do monthly communication with information about responsible gaming tools that are available for our customers. And at login, customers get to know when they last logged in and the results from the gaming during the year, et cetera, and deposit limits. We also use AI in customer service operations, which amongst other tasks, is able to identify words and sequences which help us to identify potential responsible gaming issues.

So as a summary, it's been in a way a challenging second quarter for the industry in several markets. One reason was being that the comparatives include the World Cup last year, which was a very active period. And there has been regulatory challenges, which we see as opportunities for the future. We remain confident about the long-term opportunities within the markets where we operate. And we see a really strong Sportsbook development, both in turnover and margin. The product is really at a good position and we have a lot more to come in that area.

We continue to work with cost efficiencies within the company and we see declining organic operating expenses in this quarter. We are also happy about the geographical spread that we have that offset some of the challenges in some of the bigger markets. And it's interesting, when you look at all the markets where we are active, we are growing quite strongly in many, many markets. So the underlying performance of the business is really strong. So in line with our strategy, we continuously evaluate new markets to grow for the future. And our strong financial position and proprietary technology provide a solid foundation to handle market changes and to offer customers competitive product solutions.

So I just want to mention a few words. Yesterday, Per Hamberg, one of the bigger owners and founders of Betsson and other gaming companies as well, left us. And I want to say from myself, from Betsson and from the whole gaming industry, thank you, Per. You have contributed a lot to this industry.

And with that, I want to open up for questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Martin Arnell, DNB Markets, Research Division - Analyst [1]

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This is Martin Arnell of DNB Markets in Stockholm. My first question is on the Nordics and the outlook for the remainder of the year. How should we think about competitive situations and the opportunities and risks for you in the Nordics?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [2]

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The Nordics is composed by several countries. And I think the dynamics is a little bit different between these countries. If we start off by Sweden, I think it's obvious that the competitive landscape has been really tough. And I expect that, maybe not for the rest of the year, but in the longer term, we will see less competition because there will be some consolidation. And I don't expect that we will have as many operators in the future as we have now. In the other countries, it's hard to tell. We have a positive outlook for the rest of the year internally and we will continue to develop ourselves in order to grow on these markets.

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Martin Arnell, DNB Markets, Research Division - Analyst [3]

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It seems like the spending, the ad spending has come down a little bit compared to the start of the year. Is that an opportunity for you? Or how do you view that?

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

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Yes. I think the spending in the -- I guess you refer to Sweden now. The spending has come down from the first quarter. And as I said when we presented that quarter, this is not normal situation and it will not remain. And I still think we are on that path, where we will see less marketing spending going forward.

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Martin Arnell, DNB Markets, Research Division - Analyst [5]

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And on -- don't you need sort of to raise your marketing year-over-year to have a positive organic growth on revenues?

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

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I'm not so sure that we need to do that. I mean as we grow, the marketing spend amount will, of course, grow. I don't think we will need to raise it in relation to revenues.

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Martin Arnell, DNB Markets, Research Division - Analyst [7]

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Okay. And on the Netherlands, you mentioned that the situation had stabilized for you in Q2. But by the looks of your trading statement in Q3, it doesn't really -- I don't really understand how it could have stabilized if you're down 17% in the first 2 weeks of Q3. Is it a too short period of time? Or how should we view that?

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

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It is a short period of time and we compare with the third quarter last year, which was strongly impacted by the world championship. And you can't draw any conclusions from this short period, especially not in relation to Dutch revenues. What we communicate in the report is that the adjustments that we made in Netherlands, which puts us in a really good position in the licensing process, they had an impact on the revenue line, but -- and the revenues in Netherlands came down, but they stabilized. It's not like they are going to fall and disappear. So that's an important thing to understand.

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Martin Arnell, DNB Markets, Research Division - Analyst [9]

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So when we do forecast for the coming quarters, we should look at Q2 on Western Europe and try to take it from there or...

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

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Yes. It's hard for me to tell how you should. But our ambition is that we will continue from this level and, of course, as the season becomes more intense, grow from this level.

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Martin Arnell, DNB Markets, Research Division - Analyst [11]

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Okay. Secondly, on the Netherlands, what -- can you just elaborate a little bit on what you've done? And also on this latest communication from the Dutch regulator, what's your view?

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

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We have adjusted our offering in the way that we have understood that the authorities wanted us to do. We have removed payment options. We have renamed and rebranded our sites. And there is no more marketing through affiliates and stuff like that. So it's -- when we look at the communication from the authorities now, we are fully compliant with all the requests or initiatives that they have written out.

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Martin Arnell, DNB Markets, Research Division - Analyst [13]

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Have you had -- do you have any communication directly with them? Or how does that work?

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

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Not for the time being.

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Operator [15]

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There's a question from Erik Moberg from ABG.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [16]

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In terms of receivables, I have asked about this previously, but I have a hard time understanding what's going on there. It continues to pile up on the balance sheet. What specific region does it stem from? I know that you guys mentioned Norway during the Q1 call. But is there anything else there or...

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [17]

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No, there's nothing else there. It's -- this figure can move upwards and it can move downwards. It depends which kind of payment services we use. And it's -- it depends how dates come into the calendar when money is shifted to us, et cetera. So there's...

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [18]

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Okay. What -- sorry, continue.

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [19]

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So there's no conclusions to draw from that figure itself.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [20]

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So what type of payment processors do you tend to use in Norway? And how many are they?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [21]

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I can't answer that question. And it's a detailed business operational question, which I don't -- would answer even if I knew it.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [22]

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Okay. But is the majority of receivables from Norway? And is there a specific issue in Norway?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [23]

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No. It's not -- the majority is not from Norway.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [24]

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The majority is not from Norway. But why are you not getting paid? Because it appears that it's piling up.

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [25]

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We are getting paid and we are -- we have been getting paid for more than 10 years. So it's not that we're not getting paid. I answered that question already and I'm in a hurry, so please continue.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [26]

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Okay. But how many payment processors have been shut down? And do you think that there is a risk for write-downs on the receivables?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [27]

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We change payment providers all the time. And we have had a lot of providers over the years. So there's -- it's a normal part of our business. There are no write-downs because of that.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [28]

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Okay. All right. And in terms of Netherlands, for the start of -- first of all, Netherlands are not among the countries that are restricted from the bonus programs on the casinowinner.com. A lot of other countries are mentioned. And couldn't that imply that even though you had rebranded your Dutch brand that you're still actively targeting the Dutch market? Also based upon the recent policy from KSA, which stated that online operator that have continued to actively target the Dutch market after 1st of July 2019 won't be able for a remote license at all. And since you still offer bonuses to Dutch counters, do you think that this could be an issue? Or what's your thoughts on that?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [29]

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No, that's not an issue.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [30]

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Okay. And to follow up on Netherlands, my take is that in a best case, you will be able to apply for a license in May 2021. That's when it starts sort of when you start to be compliant with all the guidelines from KSA and that it then will take at least like 5 to 6 additional months for the application to be processed. You will then be essentially 12 months behind competitors. What's sort of your strategy to this? And because you will essentially be in a position where you will have to play catch-up with competitors.

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [31]

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That's not my view, and it's -- that licensing process is not fully clear yet, so it's not meaningful to speculate on that. I know that we are compliant and we will get the license and we have a long-term ambition for that market, so -- and that's all we can focus on right now.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [32]

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Okay. But how much do you think you need to increase your marketing spend as a percentage of sales for the total group in, say, like in 2022? Because I assume you get the license in November 2021 at best. So how much more marketing do you think you will spend in 2022?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [33]

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I haven't looked at that figure. But considering the fact that we are extremely successful in marketing, I think we should spend less than others in relation to revenues.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [34]

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Okay. All right, fair enough. And just for the start of Q3, on a year-over-year basis, how much of the decline stem from the Soccer World Cup? And how much stem from Netherlands?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [35]

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I don't have that figure. But I can see it from the operations that we see in the second quarter that we performed extremely well in any markets. So I guess that the decline we see is mainly from the adjustments we have done and from the regulation in Sweden and possibly some World Cup effect, too.

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Operator [36]

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The next question is from Christian Hellman from Nordea.

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Christian Hellman, Nordea Markets, Research Division - Director of Small and Mid Cap [37]

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Just a question on Norway, which you mentioned in the report are having some difficulties due to payment issues. When sort of did these issues begin in Q2? And also have they been sorted? Or -- just to get an understanding of how much they impacted the period.

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [38]

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That's another quite detailed question. I don't know how much they impacted and -- but it's -- from time to time, there are issues with payment providers and that can have an impact. I think we are really skillful in handling payments and we have our own payment platform, which is really supporting us in that regard. So I think we're in quite a good position going forward.

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Christian Hellman, Nordea Markets, Research Division - Director of Small and Mid Cap [39]

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Okay. But the big issues begin in April or is it in May? Or for how long...

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [40]

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I don't have the details on that.

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Christian Hellman, Nordea Markets, Research Division - Director of Small and Mid Cap [41]

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Okay. Okay. And then I have a question on LiveRoulette, this new site that you're operating. Which sort of markets are you targeting with that new brand in your portfolio?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [42]

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It -- we have opened that brand just recently. And of course, it's a name in English which works pretty well in many markets. So we will see which markets to go for with that brand in the future. First, we're going to have some fine-tuning and get the product up and running really 100%. And then we will go for certain markets.

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Christian Hellman, Nordea Markets, Research Division - Director of Small and Mid Cap [43]

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Okay. But initially, where sort of has it gained traction? Just to get a sense for where it's working or not.

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [44]

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It's too early to say. It's a brand-new platform. It's -- and it's actually a rebranded platform, which has been active in the U.K. market, so there are some U.K. revenues there already.

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Christian Hellman, Nordea Markets, Research Division - Director of Small and Mid Cap [45]

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All right. Okay. And then just my final question on your proprietary technology that you mentioned in the presentation, the Sportsbook and other technologies as well, what are sort of your thoughts on that going forward in terms of business-to-business opportunities? You have a history of doing some B2B ventures. What do you think your opportunities are for sort of, I don't know, just brainstorming here about the outsource -- or not outsourcing, but selling your Sportsbook, for example, to another operator.

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [46]

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There are definitely demand in the market from the end user of our product. And as the traction is really good, we also get some initiatives from operators. So there is an opportunity to do business-to-business with the Sportsbook. There are no such decisions made yet, but we are working on that product in a way so that it can be possible to offer it as a business-to-business product.

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Operator [47]

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Yes. So we have a question from the line of Hjalmar Ahlberg from Kepler Cheuvreux.

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Hjalmar Ahlberg, Kepler Cheuvreux, Research Division - Equity Research Analyst [48]

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Maybe ask the last question on the start of your day. Can you say anything about if there's any -- if you compare like sports and casino, is it sports (inaudible) casino? Is it both markets down compared to last year and you can add on that?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [49]

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Of course, there's a different in the sports activity because now there's not much going on anywhere in sports. And last year, there was the world championship. But the world championship brings in activity to all products, so -- but mainly, of course, if there isn't much sports activities, it's harder to run a good Sportsbook volume. So it has an impact.

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Hjalmar Ahlberg, Kepler Cheuvreux, Research Division - Equity Research Analyst [50]

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Okay. And no other markets are impacting here? I guess U.K. has been a weak market at this moment. Have you seen anything that is impacting year-over-year, I mean?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [51]

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No.

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Operator [52]

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The next question is from Oscar Erixon from Carnegie.

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Oscar Erixon, Carnegie Investment Bank AB, Research Division - Financial Analyst [53]

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Well, first of all, I want to ask about your quite strong performance in the CEECA region and especially from Realm. What has happened there compared to in Q1? Do you see an improvement in the market? Was it an extended offering? Or yes, just a few more details on that, please?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [54]

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Yes. Realm is mainly a Sportsbook operator. And there is nothing dramatic that has happened other than we have kept on working on the product and the product has made great progress. And that really make an impact on the figures when it's a Sportsbook-heavy operator. So they enjoy the developments we have done in our Sportsbook. And that's what comes through in the figures.

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Oscar Erixon, Carnegie Investment Bank AB, Research Division - Financial Analyst [55]

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Okay. Great. And do you think that is an effect that will last? Do you see a tangible improvement that could continue in the coming quarters?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [56]

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Yes, I think so. We continue to develop the Sportsbook. And I think we will only perform better in relation to what we offer. And that should positively impact the revenues.

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Oscar Erixon, Carnegie Investment Bank AB, Research Division - Financial Analyst [57]

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Got it. And also a question on the news earlier this week about that you acquired some shares in Global Gaming. If you could comment just a little bit on that, what's your rationale if and also when you bought these shares of Global?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [58]

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No, I can't comment on that.

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Operator [59]

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Yes. We do have a follow-up from the line of Erik Moberg from ABG.

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Erik Moberg, ABG Sundal Collier Holding ASA, Research Division - Research Analyst [60]

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Yes. Just a quick follow-up question here. In terms of the competitive landscape in Georgia, how can -- could you elaborate a bit on how it looks like now versus 1 year ago and also how Georgia has sort of the trend -- how Georgia has trended sequentially from Q2 to the start of Q3?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [61]

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The competitive landscape in Georgia is quite high, but it hasn't changed dramatically. It was high when we acquired the Georgian company as well. Then of course, there are different scenarios from quarter-to-quarter on how different companies tend to invest in marketing. And that can shift revenues in that region between operators. But we have a very competitive offering and we have a good organization. So we have a good market position in Georgia. I can't comment on details on the figures for that country itself.

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Operator [62]

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There are currently no further questions registered on the telephone line.

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [63]

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Okay. Thank you. Do we have any more questions from the web or from -- no?

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Unidentified Company Representative, [64]

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We are taking a couple of questions from the web. Okay. The first question from the web from [Robert Gustafsson] is given your proprietary technology, which you have been talking quite a lot, can you complement your business with in-markets where you are not operating right now?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [65]

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In-markets, in -- I'm not sure I understand the question. In geographical markets or product markets or...

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Unidentified Company Representative, [66]

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Probably geographical markets.

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [67]

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Yes, of course. We will seek possibilities to offer our product -- our Sportsbook product, for instance, in markets where we are not active with Sportsbook today, that we will.

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Unidentified Company Representative, [68]

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And then he has another question about how do we see -- how do you see your opportunities on the Italian market after the market ban that came into effect in July?

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Pontus Lindwall, Betsson AB - CEO & President [69]

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The market ban hits all operators there. And I think we have proven already that we have a very, very competent team for that market. And it's not that revenues from Italy is going to go down because of the marketing ban. I believe that our team is well positioned to really actually take advantage from this situation. And we see strong figures in the start of Q3 from Italy. So I'm not worried at all about that. It's actually the other way around.

Okay. Any more questions? If not, thank you, and look forward to see you in 3 months' time roughly. Thank you. Bye.