Bookies chain Ladbrokes said today it intended to maintain its dividend in 2015, defying some analysts' expectations of a cut to help fund marketing costs, as it posted a 9% fall in annual profit. 

The firm has struggled to keep pace with rivals such as William Hill and establish itself in a growing online sector, with investment in marketing and product lagging others. 

In December, Ladbrokes kicked off a search to replace current chief executive Richard Glynn to lead a greater push online, with analysts expecting a further restructuring and a clearer strategy to follow. 

A dividend cut will not happen this year, however, with the firm saying today it intended to maintain an 8.9 pence dividend per share for 2015. 

The company said today its operating profit fell to £125.4m for 2014, slightly below a company compiled consensus forecast of £128.8m. 

Profits from its UK retail business, its largest division, fell 11%, hurt in particular by weak industry-wide football results in January and December, but rose 71% at its digital division.

Ladbrokes closed 89 loss or near loss making shops in 2014 and said today the impending rise in Machine Gaming Duty and new UK regulations meant more closures would be inevitable, with 60 slated for 2015. 

"Whilst recognising there are regulatory headwinds, Ladbrokes is confident in its plans for 2015," Glynn said.