Market Report: Amorous bids from France give FTSE life

THE FRENCH connection inspired the stock market. In another session awash with takeover action, Footsie soared 116.4 points to 6,012.4.

The proposed Societe Generale banking merger with Paribas, and the Axa descent on insurer Guardian Royal Exchange, dominated proceedings. For good measure English China Clays agreed a pounds 760m offer from the French minerals group, Imetal.

The SocGen deal provided a shot in the arm to the domestic banking sector with Barclays 31p higher at 1,391p, and National Westminster Bank 39p higher at 1,155p. The French alliance merely reinforced the belief that European banking parlours will witness some anxious and ultimately fruitful merger negotiations in the next few months.

Axa, it would appear, out-bid Royal & Sun Alliance for GRE. Its cash and shares offer comes through Sun Life & Provincial, a 71.6 per cent owned off-shoot. Sun's shares fell 51p to 530p and GRE lost 6.5p to 361p. Royal firmed 21.25p to 483.25p.

English China Clays shaded 1p to 241p. The French offer is worth 250p a share.

Once again the market enjoyed a busy session with turnover again topping 1 billion - at 1.2 billion. The takeover fever enlivened non-Footsie shares with the mid cap index up 97.6 to 5,121.8 and the small cap 23,4 higher at 2,154.6.

The prospect of lower interest rates after this week's Monetary Policy Committee meeting was another influence encouraging the market's strength. A firm New York display also helped.

Engineers, for long unwanted, remained in the grip of bid fever. Morgan Crucible, seemingly in free fall before the sector became engulfed in takeover speculation, jumped a further 22p to 227.5p and Weir, with management changes probably contributing, surged 25.5p to 232p on talk of a US strike. Others enjoying speculative interest included Cookson, 15p to 146.5p, and IMI 23p to 249p.

The excitement also extended to builders, where sentiment has been lifted by some good profits displays. Berkeley, up 51p to 492.5p, was said to be looking at Beazer, up 13p to 156p. Barratt Developments was built up 15p to 223.5p.

Chemicals also enjoyed the scent of bid action, with Croda International 19p up at 242.5p. Albright & Wilson, which admitted the presence of hovering predators on Friday, rose 5p to 104.5p in busy trading. There is talk of an offer coming in at 130p although the shares were near 200p last year.

Tetra, an IT group, was one to actually collect an approach. The shares surged 56p to 243.5p after the company admitted talks. And Delphi, another computer group, was on the bid screen, once it confirmed a potential predator, romping ahead 110p to 485p.

Dixons Motors, 16.5p to 117p, and Fitness First, 18p to 376.5p, were also caught in the bid euphoria. National Grid, announcing its expected strike at US group Eastern Utilities, firmed 5.75p to 500p.

On the pubs pitch Regent Inns frothed ahead 21p to 191p after merger talks with Surrey Free Inns were confirmed. SFI rose 13p to 191.5p.

Corporate activity was also chalked up by Inchcape, up 13p to 149.5p, by the sale of its South American soft drink side for pounds 457m; Glynwed International, 14p higher at 186.5p, on the pounds 19m disposal of its plastics side, and Pilkington Tiles, 1.5p better at 11.75p following the purchase of Woolliscroft Tiles for pounds 1.55m.

BTR and Siebe, in the final throes of their merger, topped the Footsie leader board. BTR rose 14.25p to 123p and Siebe 24.5p to 229.5p. The dual advance was thought to be due to the expectation that some bullish assessments will appear on the new engineering giant once the deal is finally concluded this week.

Tesco improved 4.75p to 192p as it caught the web bug with a free Internet service. Dixons, which has surfed to new highs on its Internet involvement, was at one time down 35p. But such is the appeal of the World Wide Web that it threw off the Tesco influence, as well as a downgrading by HSBC, to end with a 29.5p plus at 1,039.5p.

Rogue trades reappeared on the computerised order book and there appeared to be no evidence they were cancelled. Deals were recorded in Burmah at 866p and 668p with the shades ending at 787p, up 4p. Reuters closed 28.5p higher at 952p.

Profit warnings and disappointing trading performance were, as ever, in the forefront of the day's proceedings. Textile group Worthington was ripped 14p to 30p after warning of lower profits, and Whittard of Chelsea reported lower interim profits and said year's figures would not reach last year's record - sending the shares 1.5p lower to 62.5p.

Furniture retailer Uno dropped 7.5p to 33.5p after running into losses and leisure chain Break for the Border slipped 4.5p to 37p on a flat trading statement. Quality Software fell 15p to 325p but denied stories of a profits warning.

Hanson rose 21p to 413.25p with WestLB Panmure suggesting a 470p target, and Northern Foods put on 5.5p to 118.5p after Warburg Dillon Read provided support.

Aukett Associates, a building design practice, jumped 2p to 9.25p, highest for three years, after an upbeat statement from chairman Gerry Deighton.

SEAQ VOLUME: 1.2bn

SEAQ TRADES: 86,955

GILTS: 116.78 -0.24

PROPERTY ASSET HOLDINGS, an AIM-traded company, seems destined for corporate activity. A major shareholding has changed hands with Stephen Sinclair acquiring a 29.3 per cent stake and, with Charles Helvert, joining the board. The cash-rich company, with residential properties in West London, came to market at the back end of 1997 at around 7p. The shares, down 0.25p at 5.5p, have been as low as 3p.

JOHNSTON, the building materials group, held at 310p as aggressive engineering conglomerate TT lifted its shareholding to 13.32 per cent, seemingly buying shares from Newton Investment Management. A bid looks inevitable.

TT, a steady buyer of the building material group's shares, fell 4p to 156p, a 12-month low. Johnston shares, a narrow market, touched 345p last year but have been as high as 527.5p.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
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

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Graduate / Trainee Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Orgtel are seeking Graduate Trainee Re...

HR Business Partner - Banking Finance - Brentwood - £45K

£45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: ** HR Business Partner - Senior H...

PA / Team Secretary - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: PA / Team Secretary - Mat...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on