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Flutter says Murdoch spat will not stop US domination

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Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch

The boss of Flutter has insisted that a protracted legal row with Rupert Murdoch will not dent the gambling giant's plans to dominate America.

Peter Jackson insisted that the Flutter and Fox Corporation teams "are working well together" despite a multibillion-dollar row over Fox's claim to a stake in the market-leading US sports betting brand.

However, the FTSE 100 group behind Sky Bet, Paddy Power and Betfair warned that the spat with Fox would not be resolved until at least next year.

The defence came as nearly £2bn was added to Flutter’s stock market value after half-year revenues surged by almost a third, buoyed by the return of sport events compared with first six months of 2020 and football’s European Championships.

The company also said that it expects FanDuel to turn a profit in 2023.

Open warfare erupted between the two companies in April when Fox filed an arbitration claim against Flutter in relation to the price of an option to buy an 18.6pc stake in Fanduel. The parties are more than £1bn apart.

Fox insiders have claimed that the legal challenge scuppers Flutter’s plans to float a minority stake in FanDuel, formerly a fantasy sports website that has seized a 45pc share of the burgeoning US sports betting market.

Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson

Mr Jackson said that the row was not impacting the group’s plans to capitalise on American states repealing a decades-long ban on sports gambling.

“The teams on the ground are continuing to work very well together,” Mr Jackson said.

He added: "The Fanduel business is a totally separate business in the States to Fox. So the disputes we're having with Fox don't impact the FanDuel business - nor would they impact our ability to list a small stake in the business.”

Although Flutter has surged into the lead in the US sports gambling market, it has been less successful in the wider online gaming arena that includes casino and poker betting.

“Our gaming product is not as good in America as we'd like it to be. And it's just worth remembering, we own the best and biggest casino business globally online under the PokerStars brand," Mr Jackson said.

“Sport is where it is at though … if you look at the next nine states to open in the US - there are 10 states already and nine more to open - only one of those states will be supporting igaming. So having the best sports product is the most important thing to happen.”

In the six months to the end of June, the average number of Flutter customers rose 40pc to 7.6m on a like-for-like basis. Mr Jackson admitted that the increase was flattered by a lack of sporting events in the first half of 2020 - but it was significantly higher than the comparative total two years ago.

Revenues hit £3.1bn but the company sunk to an £86m loss as a result of the increased amortisation relating to the larger stable of brands that the group now owns.

The figures impressed the City, with shares rising almost 9pc to £140.7 in afternoon trading.

James Rowland Clark, an analyst at Barclays, said Flutter’s strong trading was encouraging and that its shares “feel cheap”.

“However, upside may be limited while the company faces certain hurdles/headwinds,” he added, referring to the legal row with Fox, and the delayed float of FanDuel.