Market Report: Takeover hopes put a froth on Regent Inns

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Is regent Inns about to become the next high street pub operator to find itself on the receiving end of a takeover approach, following the move on rival Yates by GI Partners? Well, those of you piled who into the stock yesterday certainly hope it is. City punters betting on a takeover of Regent Inns pushed its shares 3.5p higher to 35p.

Is regent Inns about to become the next high street pub operator to find itself on the receiving end of a takeover approach, following the move on rival Yates by GI Partners? Well, those of you piled who into the stock yesterday certainly hope it is. City punters betting on a takeover of Regent Inns pushed its shares 3.5p higher to 35p.

And they have good reason to believe that corporate action may soon be on the way at the group. Earlier this week it emerged that someone has builtan 11.6 per cent stake in the company via Cantor Fitzgerald. It is unclear on who's behalf the broker holds the stake. Meanwhile, Arbuthnot Securities was heard arguing that the high street pubs sector is ripe for consolidation. It believes that Regent Inns is a prime target given its lowly valuation.

The group, which runs the Walkabout chain, found its shares trading at just four times this year's estimated earnings after a series of profits warnings caused its shares to collapse. The most recent of these came earlier this month, when Regent was forced to admit that intense competition in the sector had weighed heavily on sales at its branded bars and, as a result, it would be forced to slash its final dividend.

In the FTSE 100, Carnival was the best performer, gaining 98p to 2,628p, following forecast-beating second-quarter results from its rival Royal Caribbean Cruises, the world's second-biggest cruise company. Royal Caribbean boasted that its earnings had more than doubled to $122m (£67m) and raised its annual profit estimate. Business seems to be booming for Royal Caribbean and Carnival. The two have been able to raise prices for all ship types and cabins and still enjoy rising demand.

JP Morgan upgraded Reuters to "overweight" from "neutral", helping the financial information provider gain 10p to 317p. The move follows better-than-expected figures from the group on Tuesday. According to the broker, cost savings at Reuters are running well ahead of target and this should enable the company to register an additional £10m of savings this year.

Man Group slumped 94p to 1,272p as investors worried about the performance of its flagship AHL hedge fund. The performance of the fund is said to be struggling due to the lack of volatility in stock markets and rising interest rates. Man is believed to generate about 13 per cent of its profits from AHL. But helping to support the group's shares yesterday was news of a £100,000 director share purchase. Peter Clarke, Man's finance director, bought 7,750p shares at 1,290p, taking his total holding to 665,000.

UBS started coverage of Center Parcs, pegged at 84.75p, with a "buy" rating and an ambitious 104p price target. The company operates four holiday villages and has enjoyed a 90 per cent-plus occupancy rate for the past 17 years, the Swiss broker noted. Premier Direct added 2.5p to 677.5p in response to the purchase of 10,000 shares at 640p by Chris Teasdale, the group's operations director.

Misys dropped 4.75p to 173.5p as some analysts suggested that results from its Swiss rival Temenos showed that Misys is losing market share in its banking business. As it stands, Misys is expected to deliver 4 per cent growth at its banking division next year but Credit Suisse First Boston believes it will struggle to do so and that downgrades to group forecasts could be on the way.

Paramount was steady at 34.5p but there were murmurs that the bid for the restaurants group, which emerged in June and was pitched at the 35p-a-share level, may take a long time before it is formally submitted to shareholders. Something of a buzz surrounded the recently floated Zambezi Resources, unchanged at 14.25p. Gossips reckon positive news is on the way from the company, possibly a gold joint venture with a Canadian group. Electric Word, the online publisher, put on 0.5p to 7p after a solid set of interim results. The company said it was on course to meet expectations for the full year.

A profits warning from e-bookers not only pushed its shares 80p lower to 140p but sent its fellow online travel group lastminute.com tumbling 15.5p to 146p. As a result of the warning, brokers were queuing up to talk to e-bookers in an effort to find out by how much they would have to downgrade their forecasts.

Trading Sports Exchange Systems was the best performer on the London market, soaring 104 per cent, or 20.5p to 40p. Dealing rooms were awash with rumours about the stock and the most exciting story suggested that Terry Ramsden, the millionaire racing enthusiast, is about to get involved with the company.

Mr Ramsden's tie-up with Leisureplay and Hansard Group has seen both company's share prices soar. And word has it he is planning to inject cash into Trading Sports and take a board seat. This is, of course, speculation. In terms of facts, all we know is that Trading Sports is considering a fund raising.

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