Market Report:


There are always risks when you have a flutter at the bookies, but lately the biggest has been political.

Bookmakers became a political football once again yesterday as Labour set out plans to get more cash flowing to grass-roots sporting initiatives. One of its headline proposals is a tax on all sports betting.

Bookies currently just pay a levy on horseracing bets – 10 per cent of gross profits. An extension could be a huge blow. Ladbrokes slipped 6.8p to 132.3p, while William Hill lost out 15.1p to 339p.

The FTSE 100 climbed 23.31 points to 6,821.46, marking its first close above 6,800 in almost two weeks. The information provider Reed Elsevier led the index higher, up 41p at 980p on the back of strong results. The FTSE would have been even higher if not for poor results from the retail giant Kingfisher, down 27.5p at 308.5p, and EasyJet, off 70p at 1,333p.

J Sainsbury advanced 4p to 317p as rivals fell, amid revived murmurings about the Qataris. Already the supermarket’s biggest shareholder, the Qatari sovereign wealth fund is perennially linked to a takeover bid. But the market appears to be giving more credence to the latest incarnation of the tale, which holds that the Qataris are canvassing the Sainsbury family for support for a bid around £5 a share.

The British Gas owner Centrica put on 2.1p to 313p after admitting it is in talks with the senior BP executive Iain Conn to replace the outgoing chief executive Sam Laidlaw.

The cloud computing specialist Iomart leapt 17.5p to 252.5p after it confirmed it has rebuffed two takeover offers, as first reported in yesterday’s Independent,  from Host Europe Holdings, controlled by the private equity group Cinven. The highest offer was 285p a share.

Elsewhere Maple Energy said it has been approached by an unnamed suitor. Despite stressing that the approach is “highly conditional”, punters piled in to the Peru-focused energy company and it rocketed 7.5p to 16.5p.

Online chatter drove the cable support specialist Hightex 0.06p higher to 0.28p, but the company later put out a statement saying the rise was unjustified.