Roll up, roll up! The US online gambling revival is in full swing after New Jersey governor Chris Christie approved the activity within the state's border. The green light should help boost state revenues and revive Atlantic City casinos. The flurry of excitement sent the UK-quoted gambling stocks to the top of the FTSE leaderboard, led by Bwin.Party (BPTY) advancing 11.2% to 153.2p. This extends a rally triggered in early February when Christie said he would be willing to allow a 10-year trial period of online gambling.
Stockbroker Daniel Stewart reckons online gambling will be operational in New Jersey before the end of the year, creating a market worth $450 million. Bwin.Party has an agreement with MGM (MGM:NYSE) and Boyd Gaming (BYD:NYSE) which, through joint venture Marina District Development, own the Borgata casino in Atlantic City. 888 (888) has deals with Caesars and WMS (WMS:NYSE). Caesars Entertainment (CZR:NASDAQ) is the largest operator in Atlantic City with four casinos. Optimal Payments (OPAY) last year signed a deal to supply payment processing, fraud management and related services to Caesars once the US started to regulate the online poker market.
British Gas-owner Centrica (CNA) has delivered a solid set of earnings and announced plans to step-up growth in North America. Centrica made £2.4 billion pre-tax profit in 2012, up from £1.3 billion a year earlier. After a strong run since December, the shares eased back 1.6% to 343.7p as investors took profits.
Life company Aviva (AV) edged slightly up 0.6% to 348.90p after it sold its Russian business to Blagosostoyanie, a non-state pension fund, for €35 million. This is part of the group’s strategy to focus on its stronger businesses.
Frankie & Benny's-owner Restaurant Group (RTN) jumped 4.7% to 407.1p after a strong start to 2013 with 6.5% like-for-like sales growth. Analysts haven't increased their forecasts because the £776 million cap will be up against tough comparative numbers this year. However, the market gurus reckon there is a growing chance that it will soon return a slug of cash to shareholders, given low debt levels and strong cash flow within the business.
FTSE 250 defence firm Chemring (CHG) gained 1.1% to 283.5p despite a trading update revealing a fall in its order book from £760.9 million as of 31 October 2012 to £756.7 million. New management are conducting a strategic review of the business with conclusions expected at interim results in June.
Real estate investment trust Intu Properties (INTU), formerly known as Capital Shopping Centres, fell 2.3% to 335.6p despite announcing a net asset value of 392p, ahead of 380p consensus, a new debt funding vehicle (SCS) and a shopping mall acquisition in Milton Keynes. Cantor Fitzgerald’s Sue Munden believes the funding news would accelerate the upgrade of its malls, but analysts at Espirito Santo question how management will fund future growth.
The market has applauded full-year results from heat treatment specialist Bodycote (BOY), sending the shares up 5.4% to 533p. Yet there are signs that 2013 could be a tougher year, as we discuss in detail here.
Glasgow-based industrial pump manufacturer Weir (WEIR) ticked up 1.3% to £21.93 after reporting a 12% increase in annual profit to £443 million, ahead of consensus forecasts for £434 million. Despite this result Investec analyst Thomas Rands is circumspect, putting his 'buy' rating review. He says: 'The outlook for 2013 is cautious, with guidance for low single-digit revenue growth and stable margins.'
Troubled Russian oil producer Ruspetro (RPO) fell 2.3% to 33.7p after it announced it would no longer attain its 4,000 barrel of oil per day production target this month.
Already depressed by a series of profit warnings, Promethean World (PRW) has taken a new beating today. The stock has dived 17.4% to 19p as its problems are laid out in the full-year results. It has swung from a £16.1 million pre-tax profit in 2011 to a £165.4 million pre-tax loss in 2012. A £140.5 million non-cash goodwill impairment is to blame. The dividend has been suspended.
Starcom (STAR:AIM) got off to a good start on its first day of dealings on Aim, rising 12.5% to 22.5p. The technology company develops wireless systems for remote tracking, monitoring and protection of assets and people.
Oil services minnow Thalassa (THAL:AIM), which provides geophysical services to oil companies, headed into orbit. The shares gained 83.3% to 132p after the group announced a letter of intent with Norwegian energy giant Statoil for a seismic contract which, at an initial $32 million, is worth almost double the current market cap.
An underlying pre-tax profit growth of 54% to £9.7 million and its maiden interim dividend (0.6p) in the six months to January has sent pharmaceutical products and services company Clinigen (CLIN) up 10.9% to 234p.
Engineer Molins (MLIN), which produces machinery for the tobacco industry, was up 3.9% at 173.5p after full-year results revealed a 3% increase in sales to £93 million and underlying pre-tax profits up 9% to £4.9 million. Encouragingly for its future progress the order book also increased 6% year-on-year.
And finally, small cap Avingtrans (AVG:AIM), which manufactures critical components for the aerospace, energy and medical sectors, advanced 4.5% to 102.4p on a strong set of interim results. These revealed revenues up 19% to £16.9 million and a record order book.
Dan Coatsworth, a contributor to this article, holds shares in Restaurant Group