Market Report: Analysts played down fears of action against the 'crack cocaine' of gambling, fixed-odds betting machines

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The Independent Online

Playtech was popular with punters yesterday on news that it was returning cash to shareholders.

After a bumper year that included selling its stake in William Hill Online last year it is returning £100m to investors and it charged up 44p to 785p. Playtech, whose customers also include Paddy Power and Betfair, is also providing software to revive Ladbrokes' ailing online business.

Bookmakers remained in focus after gambling analysts at Exane BNP Paribas rated both William Hill and Ladbrokes a buy and tried to allay fears about the impact of a government review into "the crack cocaine of gambling" – fixed-odds betting machines. Exane said that "any measures taken will likely be mild" and expect a "mix of self-imposed rules" and "lower stakes" which will be less onerous than previously expected. William Hill advanced 10.4p to 356.2p, but Ladbrokes lost 1.7p to 147.9p – both will report results next week.

After spending most of the day in the red following weak Chinese economic data, the FTSE 100 finished the day up 16.28 points to 6,812.99 as US manufacturing data was better than expected.

Mid-tier listed wealth manager Rathbone Brothers' outgoing chief executive, Andy Pomfret, said the stock market could breach the 7,000 barrier this year as it reported pre-tax profit up 15 per cent and was 3p ahead at 1,788p.

Back on the benchmark index, the defence and aerospace engineer BAE Systems reported that 2013 profits had nosedived by 81.6 per cent and it fell 36.4p to 400.4p.

The oil group Petrofac won a contract in Oman for BP worth $1.2bn (£720m) and was up 30p to 1,360p.

The FTSE 250-listed diamond digger Petra Diamonds moved into profit for its first half and was 8.5p brighter at 165.1p.

The previously struggling interactive white board-maker Promethean World won a 10,000-classroom contract in Florida and lifted 3.5p to 37.75p.

Better margins in the second half of the year for the Aim-listed mobile hotel group Snoozebox could mean it has finally turned a corner after a difficult year. It was up a whopping 6.75p to 13.125p, but still below its 40p float price.