Market Report: Takeover talks founder at SCiEntertainment

The company admitted it had received two approaches last October, just weeks after consummating the deal with Eidos, but yesterday the shares tumbled almost 7 per cent as the speculator Robert Bonnier was heard to have been selling his long-standing interest in the company.

Mr Bonnier, who is most famous for his time as chief executive of Scoot.com, the online directories business, was believed to have decided that takeover talks have foundered. Even at the time it admitted the talks, SCi sounded unconvinced an offer would be forthcoming. It never named the bidders, but Midway Games of the US was rumoured to be the front-runner. SCi shares were down 36p to 489p.

The wider stock market also ended in the red, slammed into reverse by the weak start to trading on Wall Street. With oil prices back at a four-month high and threatening to hamper global economic growth, investors worried that the US Federal Reserve would be unable to cut interest rates if consumer confidence remained as strong as yesterday's new data suggested. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was more than 100 points lower when London traders shut down for the weekend, so the FTSE 100 index ended close to its worst of the day, off 20.8 at 5,672.4.

More than £5.8bn has been wiped off the value of Vodafone, the mobile phone giant, this week as the impression hardened that the imminent publication of performance statistics will prove a disappointment. There has been ferocious competition for new subscribers over Christmas across Vodafone's most established markets and it appears to have lost market share in Italy and Germany, in particular, according to those reading the runes. The stock was yet again one of the worst performers in the FTSE 100 yesterday, falling 3.25p to 118p, its seventh consecutive decline.

Shire led the way on the upside, ending 49.5p higher at 884.5p after having announced, after close of play on Thursday, that it had settled a patent dispute with one company planning to launch a cheap copy of its best-selling drug, the hyperactivity treatment Adderall. The company is still trying to tie up a deal with Barr Laboratories of the US, which has the right to launch cheap Adderall first, but investors believe it is now only a matter of time until such a deal is done, giving Shire at least some revenues from Adderall beyond the middle of this year.

The mid-cap risers list was led by F&C Asset Management, the fund manager which invests pension and life insurance money saved by Friends Provident customers. Friends Provident still has a controlling stake in F&C, but a story did the rounds yesterday that it had been approached by a bigger fund manager which wants to buy it as a launch pad for a full bid for F&C. Analysts thought Friends Provident would be reluctant to have its investment performance in entirely independent hands, and its shares fell 1.25p to 189.25p, but F&C shares surged 19.75p to 202.75p.

There was takeover speculation surrounding Aggreko, which hires portable generators and air conditioning units and which has been trading very well because of demand during the clean-up operation in New Orleans. The stock rose 6.5p to 281.75p. And there was also talk of a bid for Elementis, the chromium producer. which sent its shares up 1.25p to 79.25p.

EMI was also tipped as a bid target, with traders rehashing the tale that Apple would bid for the music company. Others thought its was still more likely that on-off merger talks with Warner Music would yield fruit. As with any proposed duet between pop superstars, there are always logistical difficulties in getting the two together, not to mention the task of massaging the egos involved (Eric Nicoli, EMI's chairman, has been quoted saying its management should get top billing). However, sector analysts think the duet could be a big hit, and the stock was yesterday up 9.25p to 245.25p.

Centamin Egypt was a penny better at 25p amid gossip that analysis of its Sukari gold reserve shows it to be more than 35 per cent larger than first though. Afren, an oil explorer working mainly in Nigeria, jumped 5.5p to 56.5p after being tipped to rise as the company comes closer to the start of production next year.

Libertas Capital, a mini-investment bank, was up 2.5p to 52.5p after being recommended by Investors Chronicle. Murgitroyd, a patent attorneys company, was up 5.5p to a record 260p on expectations of strong trading this year.

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