Record Shell profits fail to impact on shares

Record profits of £12.9bn (€19bn) from Royal Dutch Shell proved insufficient to send shares in the oil giant into positive territory today.

The figure was towards the lower end of market expectations, while concerns about the company’s inability to completely replace its reserves persisted.

That prompted investors to take profits after a strong run, leaving Shell 2% or 37p lower at 1968p and the FTSE 100 Index off 10.9 points at 5790.7 by mid-morning.

BP joined its counterpart on the way down, falling 6.5p to 669p, although a strong performance on Wall Street and fresh bid activity around bookmakers Ladbrokes offered the wider market some support.

The Ladbrokes speculation came after owner Hilton Group confirmed it had received more approaches for the business in recent weeks.

It was also reported that CVC Capital had seen a £3.7bn (€5.4bn) offer rejected, fuelling hopes of a bumper payday for shareholders. The stock rose 8.75p to 375.25p, a rise of 2%, while William Hill lifted 22.5p to 601p.

Elsewhere in the gaming sector, online casino operator 888 Holdings fell 10p to 205p even though it made fresh inroads into the poker market and grew revenues by 52% over the past 12 months.

Another major company to post figures today also experienced a lacklustre response, despite a 34% rise in full-year profits for AstraZeneca. The drugs company was also bullish about 2006 but saw its share price fall 37p to 2697p as Astra lost some of the gains seen in recent sessions.

Outside the top flight, Thorntons slumped 5%, or 7.75p to 138p, after it revealed that it had ended takeover talks with executive chairman Christopher Burnett who had previously indicated a bid worth £124m (€182.5m). The moves fell through after recent trading woes reduced that figure to £87.4m (€128.6m).

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