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Entain back in spotlight but will Thursday bring answers or more questions?

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There’s no shortage of noise around Ladbrokes owner Entain PLC (LON:ENT) at the moment, though Thursday will bring an update more focussed on trading performance.

Nevertheless, it has been an eventful start to its new financial year.

First, there was a takeover offer from US partner MGM Resorts in the first week of 2021 at a premium of 22% to its share price at the time, which was swiftly rejected as it “significantly undervalues the company and its prospects”.

On Tuesday, MGM duly walked away from the negotiating table – albeit the pair remain joint venture partners in the US.

Then there was the bombshell news from chief executive Shay Segev, only six months after being promoted to the job, that he was jumping ship to sports streaming network DAZN.

Barry Gibson, Entain’s chairman, suggested it was a big-bucks move and said “this changes nothing with respect to the board’s view of the recent proposal from MGM Resorts”.

Next week’s numbers will, however, be focused on the previous three months, which are likely to have seen fairly strong online trading but some impact on UK bookies shops from coronavirus lockdowns, with the company having in October raised its forecast for full-year underlying profits to between £770mln and £790mln but warning in November that that month’s lockdowns will cost it at least £37mln.

Reports ahead of next week suggest non-executive director Jette Nygaard-Andersen could be promoted to CEO as the group tries to defend itself against the MGM approach.

EMIS looks to stay in good health

EMIS Group plc (LON:EMIS), the provider of GP surgery management software, is scheduled to deliver a trading update on Thursday, although investors are unlikely to expect any nasty surprises given the firm’s markets have continued to operate flat-out during the pandemic.

The company’s sales were down by only 2% in the first half of 2020 while recurring revenues improved. Sales have also risen as doctors have looked to reduce in-person contact with patients to reduce the spread of COVID-19, relying instead on digital health services that firms like EMIS provide.

With this in mind and COVID-19 cases surging once again, investors will be looking to see if these trends have been maintained, as well as how the firm’s cash balance has performed and how it intends to spend any of it.

Thursday January 21

Trading announcements: AJ Bell PLC (LON:AJB), Entain PLC (LON:ENT), Sage Group PLC (LON:SGE),  Countryside Properties PLC (LON:CSP), EMIS Group plc (LON:EMIS), Ibstock PLC (LON:IBST), Arrow Global Group PLC (LON:ARW), Close Bros Group PLC (LON:CBG), Energean PLC (LON:ENOG), Eve Sleep PLC (LON:EVE), Luceco PLC (LON:LUCE)

Interims: IG Group Holdings PLC (LON:IGG), Sensyne Health PLC (LON:SENS)

FTSE 100 ex-dividends: None

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