- Taking its cue from a strong close on Wall Street the FTSE 100 gathered strength on Thursday. By lunchtime the index was up 0.7% at 7,414.25


The S&P 500 closed higher for the fourth trading session in a row on Wednesday night, up 0.5% at 2,467.59 after the release of positive growth and jobs data.


Reports in a business magazine suggested pharmaceutical business AstraZeneca (AZN) had offered to buy Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo, a business magazine reports on Thursday. That sent shares in the Japanese firm soaring before trade was suspended, AstraZeneca was up 1.1% to £45.05.


Support services business Serco (SRP) gained 7.1% to 116.4p as investment bank UBS upgraded its rating on the stock to 'buy'.

Restaurant Group (RTN) reported a 30% drop in half year underlying pre-tax profit on Thursday, as slowing consumer spending weighed on sales. But shares in the Frankie & Benny's and Garfunkel's owner rallied by close on 10% at 347.8p with investors relieved to hear of a bulging pipeline of growth opportunities and progress with a Frankie & Benny's value proposition despite the dividend staying flat at 6.8p per share.

Online gambling firm 888 (888) has been handed a record £7.8m fine by the Gambling Commission after it failed to protect vulnerable customers. Investors were clearly relieved that the penalty was not more substantial, explaining a 4%-plus rally in the 888 share price to 263.5p.

The industry watchdog found 'significant flaws' in the firm's social responsibility processes and highlighted a technical failure which meant 7,000 customers who had chosen to bar themselves from their 888 accounts were still able to gamble.

Asset management software supplier Alfa Financial (ALFA) posted a storming set of half year results, its first since listing back in May. The figures show constant currency revenue growth of 29% and a 20% hike in earnings before interest and tax. The stock advanced nearly 6% to 459p.

British betting company Ladbrokes Coral (LCL) posts a 7% rise in first half operating profits on which it said was due to strong trading online. That growth rate leaves investors fairly cold, the stock was down 1% to 116.4p.

Recruiter Hays (HAS) declared a special dividend of 4.25p per share after posting higher full year profit. The 18% hike in pre-tax profit was supported by growth in continental Europe and improving hiring trends in the UK as the impact of the Brexit vote fades, lifting the share price by 2% to 176.3p.

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