Empire Online reports strong growth, shares rise

Empire Online, owner of Empire Poker and Noble Poker, announced strong growth last week, crushing rumors of instability and reassuring investors it can survive without the patronage of industry giant and former partner, PartyGaming Plc., owner of the world's largest Internet poker room, PartyPoker.com. Subsequent to issuing the report, Empire Online saw its shares rise by 14 percent.

The firm further revealed it was confident of reaching a $37 million pretax profit forecast for 2006 from all platforms except Empire Poker, a former PartyPoker.com skin, which took a loss after Empire split from PartyGaming in early October, 2005.

At the time, PartyGaming announced it was transferring players from its PartyPoker.com site to a new operating platform, effectively separating players who entered through skins from those who entered via PartyPoker.com directly. Immediately following the split, Empire Online began to experience a downward slide: It lost a chunk of its Empire Poker player base to PartyPoker.com, and twice issued warnings to investors that 2005 profits would be lower than previously anticipated.

However, Empire Online seems to have bounced back by concentrating on expanding its other gaming sites, Noble Poker and Club Dice. As a result, the firm was able to report that 49,788 new players joined in last year's fourth quarter (Q4), approximately 500 players a day. In addition, the firm reported that Nobel Poker posted a 50% increase in sales in the first three weeks of 2006.

Empire also announced it expects to turn a profit in excess of $50 million for the year 2005. It reported its net gaming revenue for Q4 2005 was $22.5 million, as compared with $22 million in Q4 2004, and $31.3 million Q3 2005.

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