Market Report: Talk of Finnish interest in RSA lifts insurers

Traders have been speculating about takeovers in the insurance sector all year, and although there have been a couple of smaller deals there has yet to be a successful bid in the blue-chip index. That could be about to change if rumours that Finnish insurance group Sampo is poised to launch a bid for Royal & SunAlliance turn out to be true.

Sampo, although little-known to UK investors, recently sold its banking division and is thought to be looking to spend some of its cash pile. For many sector watchers, the lack of a major deal in the insurance industry is something of a surprise. There has not been a firm offer since Aviva bid 708p per share for Prudential in March, and investors seem to have tired of talk of another bid for the Pru. Shares in Royal & Sun climbed 3.75p to 152p, while Aviva added 5.5p to 797p and the Pru ticked 11.5p higher to 661.5p.

Mobile telecoms giant Vodafone has been transformed over the last couple of months as far as analysts are concerned. Deutsche Bank and Lehman Brothers became the latest brokers to upgrade their price targets for Vodafone as both reiterated their "buy" advice, Deutsche with a price target of 155p and Lehman looking for 150p. The shares closed at 139p, up 3.5p and a 12-month high, an 18 per cent rise since the start of August.

Lonmin almost doubled 2005's pre-tax profit to $633m, boosted by hitting production targets and booming metal prices. But underlying earnings fell slightly short of expectations and the shares took a hammering. Broker Seymour Pierce, which has consistently called the stock correctly, reiterated its "reduce" advice with a 2,560p target. The shares closed 125p worse at 2,956p as the company also confirmed the $500m acquisition of AfriOre, a move that may rule out a bid for Lonmin for the time being.

London shares were buoyant on the back of corporate action speculation and a batch of decent results. The FTSE 100 was in positive territory all day and closed 43.2 better at 6,229.8.

Specialist recruitment group SThree has enjoyed a stellar year. The company came to the market exactly 12 months ago today and any investor lucky enough to pick up some shares early on has doubled their money. The stock passed 400p for the first time before closing at 398.5p, up 16.5p, as broker UBS raised its target to 450p and reiterated its "buy" rating. The Swiss broker was also positive on rival recruiter Michael Page, upping its target from 420p to 470p as the shares closed 22.25p better at 435p.

Northern Foods may have calmed investors' nerves for the time being but there are still plenty of sceptics in the market. The company confirmed on Tuesday that it is still on target to sell off some assets, for which it hopes to raise £200m. The shares have climbed sharply since the announcement and closed another 2.75p better at 93.75p yesterday.

In the small caps, traders are looking for an announcement from Software Radio Technology, a month after it confirmed the Chinese airforce has taken its technology on a trial basis. The word among small-cap traders is that the trial has gone so well that the technology could be rolled out across the entire Chinese armed forces and police. The stock ticked half a penny better to 56p.

The last few months have been very volatile for Equator Exploration, an AIM-listed oil and gas exploration group with assets in West Africa. Takeover talk has done the rounds a couple of times in the recent past but yesterday's confirmation that the group has now received an approach was met with little enthusiasm by traders. Amazingly, the shares closed 2p worse at 77p, having traded 14.75p better earlier in the session.

Fund management group Amvescap managed to find someone to take its stake in the struggling lottery operator Chariot off its hands, although Amvescap is likely to have taken a large write-down on the sale. It sold more than 7 million shares at just half a penny each. Surprisingly, the shares rallied significantly on the news, presumably because Amvescap managed to find a buyer, later revealed to be Astinway, which now holds 25.1 per cent of the stock. Chariot closed 0.33p firmer at 0.75p.

Finally, IFR Capital enjoyed a good start to life as a quoted company. The stock is currently a cash shell and will target small and mid-size acquisitions in the European food industry. It raised €135m in an institutional placing by ACP Capital, the company's main shareholder, at €1 per share. The stock closed at €1.03 as almost 10 million shares changed hands.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
A bartender serves beers
news
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
film
Life and Style
The finale at Dolce and Gabbana autumn/winter 2015
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?