London’s blue chip benchmark edges 18.5 points higher to 7,367 as confusion over the future direction of Brexit negotiations continues to weigh on sentiment, leaving it to the gaming sector to provide the real excitement on Thursday.

Bookie Ladbrokes Coral (LCL) leaps 25% higher to 169.7p as rival gaming firm GVC (GVC) confirms speculation that it wants to buy its gaming rival. In one of the worst kept secrets in the gambling industry, sector consolidator GVC, bid up 5.9% to 962.5p, outlines a proposal which values Ladbrokes at a maximum of 203.7p per share, or £3.9bn.

The deal would be structured in favour of GVC shareholders where they would own 53.5% of the enlarged business and Ladbrokes’ shareholders would own 46.5%. GVC says 'the enlarged group would be an online-led globally positioned betting and gaming business that would benefit from a multi-brand, multi-channel strategy applied across some of the strongest brands in the sector.'

Investors are also betting on William Hill (WMH), the bookmaker improving 3.1% to 300.5p after ending a legal spat with NASDAQ-listed Scientific Games. William Hill has decided to support Scientific Games’ acquisition of NYX, with Scientific Games acquiring William Hill’s NYX shares for around £96.5m in NYX.

CEO Philip Bowcock says ‘these agreements safeguard William Hill's technology roadmap and relationship with NYX and end all legal action between the parties.'

Bowcock also believes that expanding William Hill's commercial relationship with Scientific Games in the US market 'offers considerable potential should the Supreme Court ruling on PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act), which is expected next year, provide states with the power to regulate sports betting.’

Also in demand is high-flying DS Smith (SMDS), the global packaging industry leader marked up 15p or 2.8% to 554p on better than expected first half results fuelled by success with e-commerce and pan-European customers. There’s also a confident outlook statement from CEO Miles Roberts, his charge beginning the second half with ‘good momentum’.

Housebuilder MJ Gleeson (GLE) gains 3.2% to 779p on an upbeat AGM trading statement, chairman Dermot Gleeson assuring the urban regeneration-to-strategic land specialist is on track to meet full year expectations. Demand at Gleeson Homes remains strong, forward orders up more than 30% as at the end of November, while the Gleeson Strategic Land arm continues to see strong demand.

Pensions service provider Xafinity (XAF) sparks up 7% to 185p on impressive first half results, taxable profits powering ahead 188% to £4.9m. Investors are also excited by Xafinity’s £153m acquisition of Punter Southall’s actuarial consulting, pensions administration and investment consulting businesses, a deal creating the UK’s largest ‘pure-play’ pensions consultancy firm.

Embattled mobile services supplier The People’s Operator (TPOP:AIM) collapses 66.7% to 0.18p on plans to raise up to £3.2m at a meagre 0.1p to pay off outstanding debts and implement a new marketing strategy. The AIM tidder also warns it may need to tap the market for further funding in the second half of 2018.

Issue Date: 07 Dec 2017