Wednesday's most followed: 888 Holdings, Sound Oil, Wessex Exploration, Domino's Pizza and Serica Energy


As was the case on Tuesday, the most popular search on Google Finance UK today was the online gaming specialist 888 Holdings (LON:888).

On December 29 last year, it was reported that the company stood to be the biggest beneficiary of an apparent change of heart in the US over online gambling, according to broker Panmure Gordon.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) had announced that its ban on online gambling now applied only to sports betting, which analysts said opened the door for US states to legalise online poker, casino and lotteries.

The most read RNS announcement today came from Fashion retailer Next (LON:NXT). The group released lacklustre trading figure this morning and warned that 2012 would be tough.

It posted a 3.1 per cent rise in sales for the five months to December 24. Within that, the store chain recorded a 2.7 per cent fall, with the Next Directory catalogue business picking up the slack with a 16.9 per cent rise increase in revenues.

What the figures didn't reveal is the company’s trading performance in the run up to Christmas.

Number two on the list of top ten stock exchange announcements was one from Sound Oil (LON:SOU), which said it had hired Luca Madeddu as managing director of its wholly-owned subsidiary Apennine Energy SRL and as a member of the executive management team of Sound Oil.

Madeddu has over 22 years of experience in the upstream oil and gas industry with Italian energy conglomerate ENI.

He has managed large teams in complex operations in sensitive onshore and offshore environments and has worked in Venezuela, Nigeria, Indonesia, UK, Congo and Italy.

Also popular was the news from Wessex Exploration (LON:WSX).

It told investors today that it and its Australian partner Norwest Energy have been provisionally awarded five oil exploration blocks in the English Channel.

The licence areas lie to the east and south-east of Wytch Farm in Dorset, Britain’s largest onshore oil field and the acreage is believed to contain at least six different structural leads with a geological chance of success ranging from 15 per cent to 32 per cent.

Mirrabooka, a subsidiary of Norwest Energy, will hold a 35 per cent equity interest and a 65 per cent working interest in the blocks. It will also be the operator.

Wessex managing director Frederik Dekker said: "Wessex is very pleased with the offer of this highly prospective acreage and we have every intention with the support of our partner Nortwest Energy Mirrabooka to bring at least one of the leads to a drillable status as soon as possible."

At number four on the list was Domino's Pizza (LON:DOM). Shares in the firm were up 4.78 per cent as at 9.40am, to trade at 433.60 pence after it unveiled a trading update for the 13 week period to 25 December 2011.

System sales for the franchising business for the period increased by 9.5 per cent to £145 million (2010: £132.5m). System sales for the 52 weeks ended 25 December 2011 increased by 9.4 per cent to £530.6mln (2010: £485.3mln).

Like-for-like sales growth for the year was 3.0 per cent (2010: 11.9 per cent) with the UK stores up by 3.7 per cent and the Republic of Ireland stores down 4.1 per cent, the company said.

Domino's said it would deliver full year 2011 profits in line with current City consensus forecasts.

Another of the most read RNS statements came from oil and gas firm Serica Energy (LON: SQZ), whose shares were up over 11 per cent this morning as it revealed it has won a further two production licences in the latest round of UK offshore licensing.

In a separate statement, the company also announced the formal award of the four licence blocks in the Luderitz basin in Namibia following the signature from a government minister.

This allows the firm, as licence operator, to begin operations. The agreement is between the Namibian government, National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (NAMCOR), the company, and Indigenous Energy.

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