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At least it wasn’t any worse.

William Hill ended to a difficult year leaderless and with results “below the board’s expectations”, but shares in the group still managed to climb as much as 5 per cent in early trading on Friday.

Shares had pulled back somewhat by publication time, but were still up around 3 per cent, at 269p.

The company reported a 10 per cent drop in adjusted operating profits for 2016, but the final figure of £261.5m was at least in line with guidance given after its last profit warning in January.

Greg Johnson, analyst at Shore Capital, said the difficulties “had been well flagged”, and was encouraged by apparent “signs of life” toward the end of the year.

He said:

2016 was a tumultuous year for William Hill, with failed mergers, poor trading, topped off by disappointing sporting results at the back end of the year; a new CEO is yet to be appointed.

We are encouraged that momentum is beginning to accelerate (from a low base) although the risk around machine stakes is likely to continue to weigh on the price.

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