Market Report: Metals rise as future looks bright for platinum

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Precious metals have been on a bull run almost from the moment Gordon Brown decided he was a seller of gold in 1999. Platinum prices hit an all-time high in the futures markets yesterday, sending shares in Lonmin 100p firmer to 3,080p and Aquarius Platinum 26p better to 1,148p. Both stocks were significantly better in early deals before a bout of afternoon profit-taking.

However, some traders think the stock to watch in the platinum sector is the AIM-listed minnow Jubilee Platinum, a penny better at 63p. The company announced an exploration deal in Madagascar in October, the details of which included partner Transasia Minerals buying 480,000 shares in Jubilee for $1m. That works out at approximately 110p per share - a 74 per cent premium to the current price; but the announcement looks to have been completely ignored by investors and the stock has not traded above 75p since May. Chief executive Colin Bird bought another 27,530 shares on Monday at 61.5p, taking his total holding up to just over 6.5 million shares.

Insurance giant Prudential ticked 8.5p firmer to 683.5p, as talk intensified that the company is poised to go public with an offer for the closed life fund group Resolution. Blue-chip rival Resolution confirmed a week ago it was in talks that may lead to an offer, but with Swiss Re out of the running investors are banking on an offer from the Pru. Resolution fell 3p to 657p on profit-taking.

Elsewhere in the blue-chip index, utilities were in demand on speculation that Iberdrola will make a formal £12bn offer for ScottishPower before the end of the week. ScottishPower firmed 5p to 760p, while its rivalScottish & Southern Energy added 54p to 1,500p.

London shares lacked momentum all day and an uninspiring opening on Wall Street did little to alter the mood. The FTSE 100 closed 1.9 worse at 6,202.6.

Rumours of a bid for leisure and restaurant group Whitbread has intensified, and the shares closed 50p better at 1,543p, a new all-time high. Traders said a bid from a private equity source is most likely, with US group Starwood Capital favourite to make an offer.

Life as an independent port operator is a bit lonely for Forth Ports. P&O and Associated British Ports have been sold in the past 12 months, and if the word in the market is correct, Forth will be joining them sooner rather than later. The rumours are that Macquarie Bank is mulling an offer worth 2,300p per share, but some traders believe another source is more likely. Shares in Forth surged to 2,031p in early deals before closing 103p better at 2,015p after an afternoon bout of profit-taking.

Fashion designer and retailer Burberry Group has been a big success story since it demerged from GUS in mid-2002. The shares have more than quadrupled since hitting a low of 150p soon after listing. But French broker SG Securities believes there is more than enough good news already in the price and it downgraded the shares to "sell" yesterday with a price target of 545p. Burberry shed 10.5p to 603.75p as more than 13 million shares changed hands.

First-half results from food producer Uniq prompted "sell" advice from Merrill Lynch and Panmure Gordon, as the latter lowered its price target to 145p. Although the company reported a pre-tax profit of £1.5m, up from a loss of £2.2m in the first half of 2005, analysts were not impressed as profit at the operating level fell well short of expectations. The shares closed 6p worse at 194p.

The first Japanese company to list on AIM, SecureDesign, has fallen down to earth with a bump over the last couple of months. After listing in July at 49p, the shares rocketed to just under 210p, giving anyone lucky enough to have got in at the float a cracking 325 per cent gain. The shares have now tracked all the way back to close at 95p yesterday, another 15p lower.

Ishann Real Estate enjoyed a strong start to life as a quoted company. The Indian real estate group raised £180m through a placing by broker JP Morgan Cazenove and Deutsche Bank at 100p. The company's board boasts some big names, including Ian Henderson, former chief executive of Land Securities, and Vittorio Radice, former boss of Selfridges. The shares closed at 116p.

Catalytic Solutions, a company that makes catalytic converters for the likes of General Motors, Ford, Nissan and Renault, has raised £15.8m through a placing with institutions by broker Cannacord Adams. The shares were placed at 123p and demand is expected to be good.

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