Russian tycoon buys up more shares at Corus

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The Independent Online

The Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov was said to be hoovering up Corus stock yesterday and, according to market professionals, is on course to soon become the steel maker's biggest shareholder. On Wednesday it emerged that he had taken his stake in Corus to 12 per cent, leaving him as the group's second biggest shareholder behind Brandes Investment Partners, the US value fund, with 14.95 per cent.

The Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov was said to be hoovering up Corus stock yesterday and, according to market professionals, is on course to soon become the steel maker's biggest shareholder. On Wednesday it emerged that he had taken his stake in Corus to 12 per cent, leaving him as the group's second biggest shareholder behind Brandes Investment Partners, the US value fund, with 14.95 per cent.

Holding the stake via a Cyprus registered investment vehicle called Gallagher, Mr Usmanov is said to want a seat on Corus' board and is believed to have the support of Oleg Deripaska, a fellow Russian businessman, who has also been busy building a stake in the company. Meanwhile, Corus shares were also bolstered by news that the group plans to raise its prices for the third time this year. The steel maker said it aimed to lift its British prices by at least 13 per cent and its EU prices by 20 per cent.

Following the move, analysts at SG Securities upgraded their earnings forecasts for Corus by some way and tipped the group to move into the black this year. Should it achieve this feat, it will be the first time the company has been profitable since it was created in 1998.

Corus shares closed 3p higher at 40.5p, a rise of 8 per cent.

Some dealers were shocked by the director's share dealings at Antofagasta. The group's shares have doubled over the past 12 months and after such a performance most would expect the directors to start cashing in on their shareholdings, especially if they happen to own more than half the FTSE 100 company. Not so at the copper giant. Andronico Luksic, Antofagasta's chairman, spent £260,000 on stock at 999p, lifting his total stake in the company to more than 65 per cent, which is worth £1.3bn.

Xstrata gained 27p to 685p on the back of an upgrade from Deutsche Bank. The broker also set an 800p price target and said the recent weakness of Xstrata shares was baffling, given the bullish outlook for commodity prices. The wider FTSE 100 index roared 64 points higher to 4,373.

There was good news from across the Atlantic for semiconductor stocks. Micro Technology, the world's second biggest maker of computer chips, posted solid second quarter numbers and indicated that prices for the majority of its products were on the way up. As a result, ARM Holdings jumped 6.75p to 116p, Wolfson Microelectronics added 14p to 270p and Ceva gained 25p to 497.5p.

Tony Blair's historic visit to Libya is tipped to open up the North African country to UK companies, and many traders spent yesterday trying to find those listed entities which were most likely to benefit. Shell, 2.25p better to 357.5p, actually unveiled a link-up with Libya's National Oil Corp and, according to the latest market gossip, oil services group Abbot, 5.25p better at 170p, can expect some handsome orders to filter through from Shell in the coming months. Soco International is also set to cash in on the thawing of relations with Libya, traders say. The oil explorer has various assets in the country and gained 4p to 313.5p.

Sportingbet, up 6.25p to 77.5p, is nearing the end of its financial year and dealers hear business is booming at the online betting group. Courts rose 26p to 301p on speculation that its management is mulling a buyout of the retailer's UK business. Outside that division the group has a series of retailing assets in mostly emerging market countries.

Ramco Energy crashed 60 per cent or 57p to 38p after the explorer warned that reserves at its Seven Heads gas field, offshore Ireland, would be lower than expected. Following the news, Deutsche Bank urged investors to exit the stock, downgraded its recommendation to "sell" from "hold". It had been hoped that the gas field would radically strengthen Ramco's balance sheet but this now looks unlikely. The German broker said it saw little reason to hold the stock given the lack of clarity about the field's potential.

Interlink Foods added 15p to 472.5p on talk that the cake maker it is close to securing a further tie-up with Disney.

Antisoma ticked 0.25p better to 40p on hopes of positive trial data from its brain cancer treatment in the near future. Elsewhere in the biotech sector, Vernalis jumped 5p to 63.5p thanks to Nomura Securities, which told investors to expect positive news from the company in the coming months. Vernalis' major drugs are a thrombolytic protein, targeted at the prevention of strokes, and Frovatriptan, a migraine treatment.

Baltimore Technologies rose 1.5p to 41p as Acquisitor Holdings added to its holding in the cash shell. The AIM listed investment group has raised its stake in Baltimore to 11.2 per cent from 9 per cent, strengthening its hand in its continuing dispute with Baltimore's management. Acquisitor aims to remove the current management team at the cash shell and install its own candidates, the prize being control of Baltimore's £30m cash pile.

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