A profit warning from bookmaker Paddy Power and a bad run on the horses from Hilton Group and William Hill on Thursday undermined the old adage that the bookies always win.
Shares in Paddy Power slumped 22 per cent to €10.38 after the Irish bookmaker was left out of pocket as a series of well-backed favourites came home in front.
This included the victory for 9/2 favourite Our Vic in a Paddy Power-sponsored race at Cheltenham this month.
At the same time, Hilton, the owner of the Ladbrokes chain, also noted a fall in at its betting division in the last four months thanks to a run of wins by high-rolling telephone backers, while William Hill was also moved to flag up a drop in its win rate.
Shares in William Hill ended down 4 per cent at 511p while Hilton, which also announced it was still in talk with Hilton Hotels Corporation of the US about the sale of its hotel assets, lost 0.9 per cent to 336p.
In the wider market, the FTSE 100 continued its advance, rising 30 points or 0.6 per cent to 5,460.0
The mid-cap FTSE 250 rose 41.6 points or 0.5 per cent to 8102.8, another all-time high. Volumes of 3.7bn were good.
Mining stocks were again to the fore as commodity prices continued to rise. Chilean copper miner Antofagasta finished 2.7 per cent higher at £16.55, a record high, as the price of copper hit another peak.
Anglo-Swiss miner Xstrata gained 4 per cent to £13.57 amid heightened talk it may seek to trump the attempt by Inco of Canada to buy Falconbridge, the Canadian copper and nickel miner in which Xstrata has a 20 per cent stake in Falconbridge.
However, a research note from Merrill Lynch suggested platinum miner Lonmin “could be considered more of a logical fit”.
Merrill upped its stance on Lonmin to “buy” with an £18 price target. Lonmin shares ended 6.6 per cent higher to £15.28, also an all-time high.
Speculation, not for the first time, that oil group Royal Dutch Shell could be running the slide rule over BG Group sent BG shares 3.8 per cent higher to 554½p. Shell B shares rose 1.3 per cent to £17.88.
Further talk of interest from private equity group also gave late momentum to Compass Group, the world’s largest contract caterer. Shares in Compass rose 3.1 per cent to 210¼p.
The day’s best performer was hedge fund Man Group. It ended 4.7 per cent higher at £17.60 after its interim figures beat expectations. Man also unveiled a £125m share placing to fund the purchase of Refco’s brokerage business.
GUS, the owner of Argos and Homebase, gained 3.2 per cent to 877p after setting a date to hand its 65 per cent stake in fashion label Burberry to shareholders and reaffirming its intention to split its retail and credit checking operations into separate units “at the right time”. Interim profits did fall, but not as much as analysts had feared.
BOC, the industrial gases company, rose 2.6 per cent to £11.57 after its logistics arm extended its contract with Marks and Spencer to manage the distribution of the retailer’s chilled and ambient foods.
BPB, the world’s largest maker of plasterboard, gained 3.8 per cent to 769½p after it confirmed it had agreed a 775p a share takeover by Saint-Gobain, the French owner of the Jewson chain of builders’ merchants.
The agreement marked the end of a five month pursuit. Saint-Gobain had originally proposed paying 675p a share.
Lloyds TSB slipped 0.2 per cent to 467½p in spite of Deutsche Bank raising its price target on the stock by 20p to 520p.
John Sheridan, analyst, said the sustainable growth rate implied by Lloyds TSB’s share price was the lowest of any domestic bank and believed substantial upside existed should it succeed in its strategy to reinvigorate the business.
Publishing group Reed Elsevier was the sharpest faller on the FTSE 100, off 5.2 per cent to 523½p after it surprised investors by cutting revenue forecasts for its Harcourt Educational division.
In the mid-caps, Pendragon, which is trying to buy rival car dealership Reg Vardy, was the biggest mid-cap riser for the second day in succession as analysts praised the tie-up.
In an upgraded “buy” note, Panmure Gordon raised its target price on the stock from 445p to 535p and said: “Pendragon should gain significant earnings upside if a takeover of Vardy is agreed”.
Pendragon rose 7.1 per cent to 501p and Vardy rose 4 per cent to 759½p.
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