The Week That Was: Goodbye to Sir Chris and Anita but not Fraser

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The Independent Online

Vodafone provided bookends to a week packed with activity that pushed the FTSE 100 index above the 6,000 mark for the first time since March 2001, right before the dot-com bubble burst.

Monday saw the exit of Sir Christopher Gent, who stepped down as honorary president to end a simmering boardroom feud at the world's largest mobile phone company. He didn't leave without a parting shot, however, referring to his time at the company as one that was free of "blame culture" - as opposed, surely, to the environment fostered by his successor as chief executive, Arun Sarin?

With Sir Christopher out of his hair, Mr Sarin lightened his load further on Friday by sealing the £9bn sale of the company's Japanese unit to Softbank, £6bn of which he pledged to return to investors. Vodafone shares ended up 3.5 per cent on the week.

BAA managers will get no such reprieve. After weeks of speculation, Spain's Ferrovial, with help from a Canadian pension fund and Singapore's GIC Special Investments, made an £8.7bn tilt at the airport operator on Friday. BAA said no, though the early speculation was that the Spanish could be ready to offer more. The consummation of another expected deal also came on Friday, as Anita Roddick finally caved in to L'Oréal, which offered £652m for Body Shop. Its shares ended the week up 16.4 per cent at 295.75p per share, their highest level in more than 13 years. Shares in House of Fraser went in the opposite direction. The retailer saw its stock dive after it announced on Friday that talks it was holding with an anonymous suitor, thought to be private equity firm Apax Partners, had ended.

Goosed into action by Nasdaq's possible union with the London Stock Exchange, Deutsche Börse and Euronext began merger talks.

All that deal activity is great for banks. Goldman Sachs unveiled its best-ever quarterly income on Tuesday - $2.48bn (£1.4bn) on the back of M&A advisory fees and improved trading and money management. The next day, Lehman Brothers unveiled the best quarter it has had in more than century and a half of existence, pulling in $1.09bn of net income.

The unthinkable riches being showered on bankers were in stark contrast to the penny-pinching of the newspaper industry, which was buffeted with some decidedly more sobering news.

Daily Mail & General Trust did its part to add to the doom and gloom surrounding the sector, saying on Wednesday that ad revenue through the past five months fell at both regional and national newspapers. Knight Ridder, America's second-biggest newspaper chain, was bought by rival McClatchy for $4.5bn after a tepid four-month auction.

And at the first results under its new chief executive, Tim Breedon, Legal & General rewarded investors who have stuck by the insurer as its stock has lagged those of sector peers over the past year. It unveiled annual profits that have doubled to £1.59bn on new investment and pension products, and better margins, sending its shares up 12.1 per cent to 143.5p per share on the week - a level last reached nearly four years ago.

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