Britain’s Restaurant (RTN) reports a 30% drop in half year underlying pre-tax profit on Thursday, as slowing consumer spending weighs on sales. Yet shares in the Frankie & Benny's and Garfunkel's owner rally close on 5% at 333.1p with investors relieved to hear of a bulging pipeline of growth opportunities and progress with a Frankie & Benny's value proposition despite the dividend staying flat at 6.8p per share.

Online gambling firm 888 (888) has been handed a record £7.8m fine by the Gambling Commission after it failed to protect vulnerable customers. Investors are clearly relieved that the penalty was not more substantial, explaining today’s 4%-plus rally in the 888 share price to 263.5p.

The industry watchdog found ‘significant flaws’ in the firm's social responsibility processes and highlighted a technical failure which meant 7,000 customers who had chosen to bar themselves from their 888 accounts were still able to gamble.

Asset management software supplier Alfa Financial (ALFA) posts a storming set of half year results, its first since listing back in May. The figures show constant currency revenue growth of 29% and a 20% hike in earnings before interest and tax.

The results stop the stock’s recent decline sharply in its tracks, rallying nearly 8% to 467.25p on Thursday. Alfa is a running Shares Great Idea, where we have pondered if the company is perhaps the UK’s highest quality software supplier.

It’s a largely quiet day for corporate announcements with many traders still away on summer breaks. There is also little in the way of major UK data releases so market watchers are likely to turn their attention to the US, where the PCE, jobless claims, pending home sales and the Chicago purchasing managers' index are all due ahead of Friday's non-farm payrolls report.

British betting company Ladbrokes Coral (LCL) posts a 7% rise in first half operating profits on which it said was due to strong trading online. That growth rate leaves investors fairly cold, the stock barely moving on Thursday at 118.7p.

Coral and Ladbrokes betting shops

Recruiter Hays (HAS) declares a special dividend of 4.25p per share on Thursday, after posting higher full year profit. The 18% hike in pre-tax profit was supported by growth in continental Europe and improving hiring trends in the UK as the impact of the Brexit vote fades, lifting the share price by a penny to 173.8p.

British American Tobacco (BATS) has reorganized its regional management structure to integrate the next generation products business following the completion of the $49.4bn Reynolds American acquisition. The shares stay flat at £47.56.

It’s Thursday so another swathe of UK companies go ex-dividend today, although that fails to drag very much on wider stock markets. UK corporates including Croda (CRDA), G4S (G4S), Hammerson (HMSO), Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) and St James’ Place (STJ) all trade without entitlement to their latest dividend payout, apparently trimming 1.15 points off the FTSE 100, according to Reuters calculations.

The UK’s blue-chip index trades around 18 points ahead in early deals at 7,383.63.

Elsewhere, Britain’s AstraZeneca (AZN) reportedly offered to buy Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo last year, a business magazine reports on Thursday. That sent shares in the Japanese firm soaring before trade was suspended, although there is little impact on the UK group’s stock price, flat at £44.575.

Britain’s Co-operative Group is in exclusive talks to buy Nisa, entering the fray days after larger rival Sainsbury’s (SBRY) suspended its own bid talks for the wholesale group.

Gasoline prices hit $2 a gallon for the first time since 2015 on Thursday as flooding from storm Harvey knocked out almost a quarter of US refineries, while crude prices stabilised following a slump the previous day.

Find out how to deal online from £1.50 in a SIPP, ISA or Dealing account. AJ Bell logo

Issue Date: 31 Aug 2017