MARKET REPORT: Mecca Bingo-owner Rank stock surges on US takeover talk

Rank made a late afternoon charge amid speculation that the Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casinos owner could be about to be snapped up by a larger US player.

UK gambling firms have been a target for US firms who want to tap into their strong online offering and cutting-edge technology.

Earlier this year US casino giant MGM Resorts made an £8billion bid for Ladbrokes owner Entain, while William Hill was bought by Caesars Entertainment for £2.9billion in April. 

Takeover talk: Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casinos owner Rank is thought to be the target of a US gambling giant

Rank has greatly improved its online performance after buying AIM-listed Stride Gaming in 2020.

The group has long been viewed as a takeover target by analysts and there were talks between Rank and William Hill back in 2016 but nothing materialised.

Some suggested that private equity could also be sniffing around given the huge interest in recent weeks in UK listed companies.

Brokers said the trading patterns of the stock yesterday had alerted them to a potential deal.

Stock Watch – Hilton Food Group 

Food packaging company Hilton Food Group said that trading is in line with expectations amid strong demand from European customers who have been stuck at home during the pandemic.

The company said that turnover from its UK red meat business has grown strongly compared to last year.

Turnover has also increased in Scandinavia. However, shortages of Swedish meat has held back growth somewhat.

Its vegan joint venture Dalco saw sales rise a little compared to the same period last year, despite being hit by lockdowns. 

Shares rose 0.3 per cent, or 4p, to 1234p.

One broker said: ‘The stock started the day relatively flat. Then unusually Rank shoots higher at 3pm. Some of us had been expecting an announcement.’

Shares in the FTSE 250 listed company rose 7.8 per cent, or 14.2p, to 196.2p, while on the FTSE 100 Entain was 2.3 per cent, or 35.5p, at 1614.5p and Paddy Power and Betfair owner Flutter added 2.1 per cent, or 270p, to close at 13200p.

There was also joy for investors in the hotel sector as both InterContinental Hotels and Premier Inn-owner Whitbread made gains as people prepare for their summer holidays.

IHG signed a deal to develop seven hotels in Saudi Arabia at locations in Riyadh, Jeddah, Eastern Province, Abha, Hail, Qassim and Tabuk. 

IHG operates 38 hotels in Saudi Arabia. IHG shares moved up 2 per cent, or 98p, to 4922p and Whitbread added 1.9pc, or 59p, to 3150p.

The blue-chip index was also boosted by oil giants BP and Shell after Brent Crude rose 2.5 per cent to hit $68 per barrel.

Goldman Sachs remained bullish on the market, predicting that oil will touch $80 per barrel by the end of the summer as economies across the globe come roaring back. 

It came as Legal & General’s asset management arm emerged as one of the investors to have voted against Shell’s climate plans last week for not going far enough.

LGIM said yesterday that the oil major’s targets to reduce carbon emissions and oil production lack credibility and fall short of tackling climate change.

But not all shareholders agree with LGIM and many are worried that the company is being bullied by asset managers into moving away from its core oil business.

But Shell rose 0.8 per cent, or 10.4p, to 1350.4p, while BP was up 1.4 per cent, or 4.2p, at 316.4p.

The FTSE 100 was up 0.5 per cent, or 33.54 points, at 7051.59. The FTSE 250, meanwhile, closed up 0.4 per cent, or 84.31 points, at 22,483.73.

Investors were warming up for results from Marks & Spencer tomorrow. The High Street retailer is expected to show decent progress under chief executive Steve Rowe who looks to finally be getting a grip on the group.

The website has improved and has started introducing other brands to its fashion ranges, which has made the company’s clothes more appealing.

But talk of M&S’s revival have proved false dawns in the past, so investors are advised to proceed with caution.

Shares were up 2.7 per cent, or 4.05p, at 156.8p.

Other notable risers included Royal Mail, which is due to charge back into the FTSE 100 after its shares roared 300 per cent higher during the pandemic.

The blue-chip index is due to be reshuffled on June 2, with ITV (up 1 per cent, or 1.25p, at 129.95p) seen as an outside runner to also make the cut. Royal Mail shares added another 4.5 per cent, or 23.6p, to 550p.

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