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Business Comment

James Moore: Jupiter prospers when it floats in its own orbit

Outlook Jupiter's was one of the smoother flotations of recent times, even if the shares did have to be priced towards the bottom end of the initial range set by its bankers. Yesterday it gave some indication that those investors who backed the business when it returned to the London Stock Exchange got a rather good deal.

A pre-tax loss of £6.5m last time round was turned into a £14.6m pre-tax profit in the first half of this year. What's more, the company managed to pull in £814m of net new money from clients, no mean feat given the current volatility of the stock market and chief executive Edward Bonham Carter's less- than-optimistic assessment of the prospects for equity prices: he believes they will be "range bound" because of continued economic uncertainty and it's hard to disagree. That didn't stop his shares from taking their cue from the numbers and they hit fresh highs.

All quite a contrast, then, to the other big fund-management flotation of recent times, Gartmore, which has been mired in the slop of a scandal engulfing a much-fêted star trader and has resulted in money flying out of its doors.

There's a cautionary lesson here for others tempted to pay big bucks for big names and then rely on them to bring in business – not one, sadly, that the banking industry has cared to heed, even after everything that has happened.

In the meantime, given its caution about equities, Jupiter has been paying attention to the areas where it is weaker, such as fixed income, and could even make a small deal or two in the coming months to further strengthen its offer. The City gossips, on the other hand, are rather more interested in what would be a rather bigger deal: one involving a takeover of Jupiter.

At a time when so many fund managers are finding life difficult, Jupiter's performance stands out. So it is perhaps inevitable that a predator might seek to try its luck. And now would be a very good time to do so. Why wait until market conditions improve when the shares in your target will only improve with them?

Such a move might even be attractive to some of Jupiter's managers who have had one payday from the float and would be unlikely to say no to another. Predators, though, should have a care and take a look at Jupiter's unhappy history as a subsidiary of Commerzbank. Companies such as this rarely prosper when subsumed within bigger groups.