FTSE takes a dive

The London market dived deep into the red today after gambling stocks were rocked for the second time in two months.

The London market dived deep into the red today after gambling stocks were rocked for the second time in two months.

The detention of Sportingbet chairman Peter Dicks in the United States – just two months after the arrest of then BetonSports chief executive David Carruthers - sent the sector crashing with Party Poker owner PartyGaming down 10%.

It sent a shudder through the rest of the market and with shares on Wall Street also in decline, the FTSE 100 Index closed 71.2 points lower at 5858.1.

Investors in London were on edge for much of the day as uncertainty over the strength of the US economy and doubts over the future of Prime Minister Tony Blair in the UK took its toll.

No details were given over why Mr Dicks was being held in the US but the detention itself was enough to send the sector spinning.

PartyGaming shares fell 11.5p to 105.75p while 888 Holdings was 27p lower at 144p – a fall of 16% – in the FTSE 250 Index.

Sportingbet suspended its shares on news of the detention while a company it was in talks to buy – World Gaming – fell 27.5p to 64.5p, or 30%.

On a positive note, shares in directories business Yell jumped by 7% after the Competition Commission proposed a relaxation of price controls.

The surprise decision to allow Yell to raise its prices in line with inflation pushed shares to a new high, up 39p to 572p.

Stocks with exposure to possible higher US interest rates were under pressure, including Build Center chain Wolseley with a drop of 35p to 1115p.

BAE Systems was struggling after it said last night that it had agreed to back the £1.9 billion sale of its 20% stake in Airbus, even though the figure was far lower than previous expectations. BAE fell 3.75p to 373.75p.

ITV shares were down as a newspaper report said the former BAA chief executive Mike Clasper had been sounded out for the position of chief executive. The stock slipped 4p to 101.5p.

Among companies reporting results today, transport group Arriva fell 4p to 608p as a “solid” half-year performance was overshadowed by fears over rising fuel costs.

And no frills airline easyJet was in the doldrums after revealing it suffered a £4 million revenue hit following last month’s terror scare. Its shares fell 5% or 22p to 445p.

And automotive equipment group Tomkins tumbled 15% as it revealed that a North American downturn would cause third quarter profits to miss expectations.

Tomkins fell 41.5p to 241.25p while elsewhere in the engineering sector GKN dipped 8.75p to 292p and FKI slipped 5.75p to 91.25p.

The day’s biggest blue chip risers were Yell up 39p to 572p, Centrica 4.25p higher at 311.5p, Scottish & Southern Energy up 15p to 1230p and Sainsbury’s 3.75p better off at 359.5p.

The heaviest fallers were PartyGaming down 11.5p to 105.75p, ITV off 4p to 101.5p, Shire 32p lower at 847p and Anglo American down 84p to 2243p.

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