News Column

UK MORNING BRIEFING: William Hill Promotes From Within

July 4, 2014

Tom Waite



LONDON (Alliance News) - UK shares have opened mostly flat Friday, taking a breath following a strong day for global equities on Thursday which saw the Dow close about 17,000 for the first time.



There was further bad news for FTSE 250 outsourcing firm Serco prior to the open Friday, as it said it has been unsuccessful in its rebid for the franchise to manage, operate and maintain the Docklands Light Railway in London.



William Hill said Chief Executive Officer Ralph Topping is stepping down on July 31, after more than four decades at the company, and it has appointed James Henderson in his place. Henderson is currently William Hill's group director of operations, overseeing the UK retail business, online, and William Hill in Australia and the US.



Amid a quiet day for UK company announcements, brokers issued a slew of rating changes. In the FTSE 100, UBS raised its rating on ITV to Buy from Neutral.



Here is what you need to know at the UK market open:

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MARKETS

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FTSE 100: down 0.1% at 6,860.14

FTSE 250: flat at 16,034.91

AIM ALL-SHARE: flat at 790.18

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Hang Seng: flat at 23,523.67

Nikkei 225: closed up 0.6% at 15,437.13

DJIA: closed up 0.5% at 17,068.26

S&P 500: closed up 0.6% at 1,985.44

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GBP-USD: up at USD1.7158

EUR-USD: down at USD1.3602



GOLD: up at USD1,321.80 per ounce

OIL (Brent): down at USD110.98 a barrel



(changes since end of previous GMT day)

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ECONOMICS AND GENERAL

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Friday's Key Economic Events still to come

(all times British Summer Time)



US Independence Day holiday

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German factory orders declined more than expected in May as both domestic and foreign orders decreased from April. New orders in manufacturing fell by seasonally adjusted 1.7% month-on-month in May, provisional data from Destatis showed Friday. Economists had forecast a 1.1% fall in new orders after rising revised 3.4% in April. Domestic orders slid 2.5% and foreign orders by 1.2% in May.

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At least 150 pro-Russian separatists and two Ukrainian soldiers were killed in heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine, the government said. The army targeted six separatist positions and surrounded the town of Nikolajevka, a spokesman for the anti-terrorist unit said in Kiev. Four soldiers were wounded, he said.

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A ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists is possible only if both sides commit to honouring the agreement, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Thursday in a phone call with US Vice President Joe Biden. Conditions for such a ceasefire would be the release of hostages and cooperation of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Poroshenko said, according to a statement from his office. Poroshenko briefed Biden on discussions Wednesday in Berlin held by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin with the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Russia. At the meeting the ministers agreed to start talks by Saturday on another ceasefire between Kiev and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

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Arthur was declared the first hurricane of the US season Thursday, prompting evacuation orders for an island off the coast of North Carolina and threatening to ruin Independence Day festivities along much of the US east coast. Arthur was blasting sustained winds of 160 kilometres an hour, and was promoted from Category 1 to Category 2 late Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm was 35 kilometres off the coast at 10 pm (0200 Friday GMT) and moving north by north-east at 24 kilometres per hour, the center said. Arthur was expected to weaken Friday after making landfall as it travels north along the coast from Virginia to New England and Canada, tapering back down to a tropical storm by Saturday or Sunday. The Fourth-of-July holiday weekend normally sends people pouring onto Atlantic Coast beaches, but meteorologists warned swimmers of heavy rip currents as far south as Florida through the coming days.

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The US will not sign a no-spying agreement with Germany as it attempts to settle the diplomatic fallout from the US National Security Agency's surveillance on Chancellor Angela Merkel, a White House official said Thursday. "We're not going to have a no-spy agreement," deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said in response to a question from dpa, during a White House briefing with foreign media. "We don't have no-spy agreements with any country."

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A specific terrorist plot against Uganda'sEntebbe Airport has been uncovered by Ugandan Police, the US embassy in Uganda said Thursday. According to the announcement, the Uganda Police Force had information from intelligence sources that an operation by an unknown terrorist group would take place at the country's major airport between 9 and 11 pm (1800-2000 GMT). The embassy warned people planning to travel through the airport to "review their plans."

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun said his administration is every bit as legitimate as the Thai junta that seized power in May, in a speech reported Friday. He was encouraging the opposition to take up their seats in parliament, which they have been boycotting since an election last year that they said was marred by fraud.

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BROKER RATING CHANGES

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HSBC INITIATES FRESNILLO WITH 'OVERWEIGHT' - TARGET 1080 PENCE

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UBS RAISES ITV TO 'BUY' ('NEUTRAL') - TARGET 210 PENCE

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TRADERS: UBS REMOVES ANTOFAGASTA FROM 'LEAST PREFERRED MINERS' LIST

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TRADERS: MORGAN STANLEY RAISES ANTOFAGASTA TO 'EQUAL-WEIGHT' ('UNDERWEIGHT')

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TRADERS: CITIGROUP RAISES VODAFONE TO 'FOCUS LIST EUROPE'

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EXANE BNP CUTS WILLIAM HILL PRICE TARGET TO 390 (400) PENCE - 'OUTPERFORM'

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GOLDMAN RAISES WILLIAM HILL PRICE TARGET TO 410 (400) PENCE - 'BUY'

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TRADERS: MERRILL LYNCH INITIATES BWIN.PARTY WITH 'NEUTRAL' - TARGET 100 PENCE

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TRADERS: MERRILL LYNCH INITIATES BETFAIR WITH 'NEUTRAL' - TARGET 1050 PENCE

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CITIGROUP RAISES DIRECT LINE TO 'BUY' ('NEUTRAL') - TARGET 306 (244) PENCE

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SOCGEN INITIATES AVEVA GROUP WITH 'BUY' - TARGET 2650 PENCE

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UBS RAISES COMPUTACENTER TO 'BUY' ('NEUTRAL') - TARGET 705 (710) PENCE

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BERENBERG RAISES HISCOX TO 'HOLD' ('SELL') - TARGET 706 (626) PENCE

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GOLDMAN CUTS GO-AHEAD GROUP TO 'BUY' ('CONVICTION BUY'), TARGET 2690(2550) PENCE

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COMPANIES - FTSE 100

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Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC said it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish an exclusive long-term joint venture for the development of accessory drive train transmission systems. The new 50:50 joint venture will cover the entire product lifecycle of Rolls-Royce civil aero engine applications, said the company, and will operate in France - where it will be head-quartered - as well as the UK and Germany, and will have a competitive production facility.

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BTGroup PLC said the trustee of the BT Pension Scheme entered into longevity insurance and reinsurance arrangements to protect the scheme against costs associated with potential increases in life expectancy. The arrangements will provide long-term protection and income to the scheme should members live longer than currently expected. The trustee has set up a wholly owned insurance company, and the scheme has transferred longevity risk to this insurer, who has in turn re-insured the risk with The Prudential Insurance Co of America, a subsidiary of Prudential Finance Inc. The arrangements will not require any additional contributions from BT.

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UK bookmaker William Hill PLC said Chief Executive Officer Ralph Topping is stepping down as CEO on July 31, after more than four decades at the company, and it has appointed James Henderson in his place. Topping has been with the group for 44 years, and has led the company as chief executive for the past six years.Incoming CEO Henderson, who has been with the company for 29 years, is currently William Hill's group director of operations, overseeing the UK retail business, online, and William Hill in Australia and the US. Henderson will take over as CEO on August 1.

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An investigator who was hired to investigate a suspected smear campaign against GlaxoSmithKline PLC said that the allegations that the company systematically bribed doctors in China are "credible," the BBC reported late Thursday. Peter Humphrey's company ChinaWhys was hired in April 2013, after a sex tape featuring China executive Mark Reilly surfaced in an email alleging bribery. ChinaWhys was called to investigate the video. Humphrey was arrested shortly after delivering his report about former staff member Vivian Shi Wen, who was suspected to be the whistle-blower, by Chinese authorities.

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Low-cost airlines easyJet PLC and Ryanair Holdings PLC said passenger numbers in June continued to rise. FTSE 100-listed easyJet said it flew 6.1 million passengers in June, up 10.1% on the 5.5 million passengers flown in June last year. Load factor also rose during the month, rising to 92.0% from 89.9% in the comparable month. Ryanair said traffic in June rose to 8.3 million passengers, compared to the 7.9 million flown in June last year, while load factor rose to 88% from 84% for the comparable month.

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COMPANIES - FTSE 250

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Serco PLC said it has been unsuccessful in its rebid for the franchise to manage, operate and maintain the Docklands Light Railway in London. The support services company said it has been informed by Transport for London that it was unsuccessful in its rebid after operating the DLR since 1997 under two franchises. The current franchise, which was due to end on September 14, has been extended to December 7, 2014, at which point the service will transfer to the new franchisee, Serco said. Separately, fellow FTSE 250 constituent Stagecoach said it also was unsuccessful in its bid for the franchise.

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COMPANIES - MAIN MARKET AND AIM

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Xchanging PLC said it has acquired the European operations of Agencyport Software, a US-headquartered insurance software company, for GBP64.1 million in cash, in a move designed to bolster its existing Xuber insurance software product range and to enable it to expand into the risk-exposure modelling and health-insurance markets. In a statement, Xchanging said that it expects the acquisition to marginally increase earnings in the current financial year, with the rise to be materially so in 2015.

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Intelligent Energy Prices IPO At 340 Pence, Giving Market Cap Of GBP639M

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Recruitment and outsourcing company StafflineGroup PLC said earnings in the first half of the year have been in line with market expectations, while current trading remains positive. In a pre-close trading update Friday, the company said it continues to make good progress across a number of its key growth initiatives, including its core Onsite business and its Welfare to Work division.

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Xcite Energy Ltd said it has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Aibel AS for engineering, procurement and construction of a self-installing steel concept elevating platform for the Bentley field. The Bentley oil field is located off Shetland in the UK northern North Sea. Aibel will work with AMEC PLC to deliver the platform, which was designed by Ove Arup & Partners Ltd.

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Synairgen PLC said it has raised GBP5.3 million through the placing of 10.6 million new shares at 50 pence each, to pursue its five leading projects. Shares in Synairgen closed at 59.55 pence Thursday. The respiratory drug development company said that, following its global licensing deal with AstraZeneca PLC in June, it has assessed more than 30 new opportunities to progress further drugs to Phase I trials.

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Adamas FinanceAsia Ltd said it has agreed to invest USD300,000 into the BRJ China Credit Fund Ltd, following on from from its initial USD500,000 investment in April. Adamas, which provides capital for Chinese small and medium sized enterprises in need of short-term bridging finance, said that the BRJ has exited three early investments since its first investment in April, yielding gross internal rate of returns of 27.26%, 31.83% and 57.04% on fully-repaid loans of USD2.1 million, USD2.4 million and USD4.8 million.

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Office supplies provider Office2Office PLC said trading in the first half of the year has been in line with expectations. In a short statement, the company said it will announce its half-year results, for the six months ended June 30, on August 28.

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Friday's Scheduled AGMs/EGMs



Braemar Shipping Services

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Source: Alliance News


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