Market Report: ScottishPower hit by fears over PacifiCorp sale

The worry seems to have been sparked by a newspaper article which suggested that the disposal of PacifiCorp to Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings has attracted the wrath of a US watchdog. The news pushed ScottishPower shares down 8.5p to 537p.

Under Oregon state law, any company wanting to buy a local utility must first prove to regulators that the transaction is in the public interest, and that the deal will result in a "net benefit" to customers.

According to the article, staff at the Oregon Public Utility Commission had criticised the PacifiCorp deal at a public hearing, arguing that the sale of the business to MidAmerican Energy fails to satisfy regulatory requirements.

Nevertheless, towards the end ofyesterday's session, ScottishPower stock recovered some of its losses - at one point during the day its shares touched a low of 525.5p - as the company pointed out that the comments from the regulator came during the first of many public hearings on the matter.

A spokesperson for ScottishPower stressed: "This is the first public hearing in a process that will run until early next year." Analysts suggested it is unlikely the sale of PacifiCorp will be delayed by the Oregon regulator.

The wider FTSE 100 finished 46 points higher at 5,227. Mining and oil companies were the best performers as BHP Billiton rose 30.5p to 835p, Xstrata put on 30p to 1,336p, Anglo American improved 95p to 1,685p and Cairn Energy gained 55p to 1,725p.

Meanwhile, BOC was once again boosted by rumours of a bid. Shares in the industrial gases group rose 20p to 1,085p.

Hopes that a venture-capital bid is on the way for De Vere pushed the hotels group 33.5p higher to 599p. InterContinental Hotels jumped 13p to 701.5p after better-than-expected third-quarter results from Starwood, its US peer.

FL Group, the Icelandic investment company which owns Icelandair, disclosed the purchase of 4 million easyJet shares, taking its holding in the low-cost airline to 60 million, or 15 per cent. EasyJet ticked 4p lower to 296.5p.

Center Parcs jumped 5p to 55.5p on talk of a 75p-a-share bid from the French holiday group Pierre & Vacances. P&V was involved in the buyout of Center Parcs from Scottish & Newcastle in 2000 and knows the company well.

Wyevale Garden Centres dropped 55p to 490p after the collapse of takeover talks with Cinven. The private-equity group had been looking to make a 580p-a-share offer for Wyevale, which would have valued the retailer at £325m. However, Cinven has reserved the right to make a fresh offer for the garden centres group within the next six months.

Among smaller companies, European Business Jets, unchanged at 1.62p, said the Jersey investor Noel Hayes had picked up a 5 per cent stake in the corporate jet group. Elsewhere, word has it RC Group, the biometrics security provider, will unveil a million-dollar sales deal today with a Malaysian distributor. The group, which saw its shares tick 0.75p higher to 38.25p, will be hoping this contract is one of many.

Hartest Holdings was unchanged at 0.57p despite news that Peter Gyllenhammar, the Swedish value investor, had taken his stake in the medical equipment firm to 14.3 per cent. SPI Lasers had its first day of dealings on AIM. The maker of fibre optic lasers raised £10.6m at 1444p, and saw its stock close at 150p. SPI will use the money to market its products.

Macfarlane put on 0.75p to 31p as Peter Atkinson, the chief executive of the logistics group, picked up 60,000 shares at 30p. John Love, the group's finance director, picked up 55,000 at the same price. There was also director share-buying at Formjet, up 0.38p to 2.75p. Lyndon Chapman, the group's chairman and chief executive, bought 550,000 shares at 2.7p.

Matrix Communications jumped 21.5p to 146p on rumours the group has received several offers for its Fujin division. The business provides software to mobile phone operators, and gossips reckon one of the bids values the unit at more than £25m.

Finally, Coffeehaven International, steady at 1.22p, unveiled a £6.25m fund-raising. The operator of sandwich bars and coffee shops in central Europe will use the cash to pay down its debt pile and expand its business in what is a fast-growing region of the continent. Word has it a number of heavyweight institutional investors have backed Coffeehaven's fund-raising, including a high-profile name from the UK retail sector.

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