MONDAY MARKET CLOSE: Merlin loses sparkle on profit alert

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Alton Towers owner Merlin Entertainments saw its shares head sharply lower after warning that profits at its theme parks division could be more than halved as a result of last month’s rollercoaster accident.

The firm ended the session down 18.1p at 405p – a decline of 4.3 per cent – having earlier slumped as much as 9 per cent.

Alton Towers' profits have dropped after last month's accident. Picture: PA

Alton Towers' profits have dropped after last month's accident. Picture: PA

However, the heaviest blue-chip faller was publishing firm Pearson, which confirmed it was in talks over the possible sale of its 50 per cent stake in The Economist Group. There is no certainty that a deal will take place, but it would follow last week’s sale of the FT Group to Japan’s Nikkei for £844 million in cash. Shares dropped 58p or 4.8 per cent to 1,161p.

These falls came as the wider FTSE 100 lost 74.68 to close at 6,505.13 in the wake of a renewed sell-off in China, where the Shanghai index dived by more than 8 per cent – its worst performance since 2007 – despite recent efforts by Beijing to support the market.

Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, said: “Poor industrial data heaped more concern over China’s wilting economy, while the government’s intervention has done little to calm its stockmarket, which experienced one of its worst days in its history.”

Amid all the gloom, consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser was one of the biggest gainers after the Nurofen and Strepsils maker said it was on track to beat its targets for the full year. Shares added 85p to finish the day at 5,993p.

Gambling firm Bwin.party was another strong riser, closing 3.1p or 2.9 per cent higher at 111.7p after GVC Holdings raised the stakes in the takeover tussle for the owner of FoxyBingo. GVC, parent of Sportingbet, tabled a £1 billion proposal having seen Bwin’s management accepting a lower offer from rival 888 Holdings.