Online gaming stocks tank

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Online gambling stocks have tanked this morning after legislation was passed in the US clamping down on their activities. PartyGaming shares are off 55 per cent, Sportingbet is down 58 per cent and 888 Holdings, confirming it was suspending participation of US-based customers, is down 35 per cent. We did lots this morning on the legislation (and Louisiana’s reaction to its failure to extradite Peter Dicks) but we can do more today on what the options for the companies really are now, and how enforceable is this legislation. Lex is picking through the debris as well.

Jeff Randall and I interviewed professor Joseph Kelly of Buffalo State college on Radio Five Live last night who said that companies may be able to get round it. And Earl Burton on Pokernews.com writes: “The online gaming legislation added to the port security bill is very difficult to enforce. While it doesn’t outright state that online gaming is illegal, it does outlaw the payment of gaming implements through banks and credit card companies in the United States. It does not address, however, the multitude of online payment systems (such as NeTeller) that exist or what can occur through them.” NeTeller’s shares are down 60 per cent. There is more frothing at online-casinos.com.

Misys shares fell 17 per cent after the software company issued yet another profits warning and confirmed that its chief executive, Kevin Lomax, will leave following the collapse of talks to sell the company. Chairman Sir Dominic Cadbury says the board has a list of preferred candidates to succeed Lomax.

Today is a big one for water. AWG has confirmed its £2.2bn sale to a consortium led by Colonial First State and Commonwealth Bank of Australia. However, the group’s shares are above the offer price after the owner of Anglian Water said it had received other approaches. Meanwhile, the Australians are also at work at South East Water, which Macquarie has sold to its compatriot bank, Westpac, for £665m. This has prompted speculation that Macquarie is preparing a bid for Thames Water, which is being sold by RWE of Germany (and where another Australian group, Alinta, is looking). Lex says pension funds are wrong to pay a premium for control when just owning the shares should serve their purposes well enough.

There is bid activity in the property sector as well today. Great Portland Estates is in talks to buy London Merchant Securities.

Rumour of the day: traders are betting a bid for Britvic is in the offing despite a statement from Permira denying it intended to make an offer. The stock is up almost 8 per cent.

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