Market Report: Carlton and Cookson whispers pry traders from banking drama

THE TELEVISION group Carlton and the engineer Cookson yesterday provided traders with a welcome diversion from the banking merger mania amid intriguing whispers of corporate action.

The odd couple fought a valiant battle to grab the attention of a market who had eyes only for the soaring financials stock.

At the end of a terrific day for the FTSE 100, Carlton was 25.75p higher to 436.75p amid talk of a possible deal with its French rival Canal+. The stock was boosted by a late roguish trade at 461p but market watchers said that the rise was underpinned by genuine buying.

Cookson finished 11p better at 182p - one of the day's best midcappers - on rumours of a management buyout.

In many dealers' eyes, the Carlton story was sexier than another MBO for an undervalued engineer. The TV blue chip could be on the verge on receiving an approach from its Gallic counterpart Canal+. Fans of the story said that the French group could be interested in a joint venture between its own digital outfit Canal Satellite and OnDigital, the digital TV business co-owned by Carlton and Granada. An Anglo-French digital tie- up would make strategic sense. Both channels are struggling in their domestic markets and could benefit from the synergies and increased marketing muscle of a cross-border deal.

The only snag is that the French conglomerate Vivendi, largest shareholder in Canal+, also owns a stake in OnDigital rival BSkyB, up 8p to 559p. But the possible conflict of interest did not deter supporters of the Canal+ rumour. They pointed to Vivendi's statement that it is in no rush to merge BSkyB and Canal+. They also noted that the French conglomerate has been looking to sell its 9 per cent of its near-49 per cent stake in Canal+ to fund foreign expansion. A TV joint venture and equity swap with Carlton could be the ideal answer.

Carlton's OnDigital co-owner, Granada, surged 22p to 560p ahead of an analysts' meeting today. Industry experts are expecting a positive update on the group's TV and hotels businesses. A purchase of a stake in a football club is also possible.

As for Cookson, traders were excited by reports that rival Charter, 22.5p higher at 355p, could fall to a pounds 400m MBO. According to the market's wisdom, Cookson could be the next in line to go private especially if the shares stay below their 243p yearly peak.

The rest of the market had a storming session thanks to a strong Wall Street and the financials' bid frenzy. The FTSE 100 regained the psychologically important 6,000 level and closed 141 higher at 6078.6 - its biggest rise in five weeks. The smaller indices were more subdued, with the FTSE 250 ending 36.1 higher to 5699.9 and the Small Cap falling 1 to 2683.8.

The heavyweight banking sector's strength contributed some 60 points to the rally as the market was flooded with takeover rumours. As one dealer put it, the institutions were "out with their buying boots" picking up banks from the opening bell.

NatWest Bank soared 122p to 1,476p on strong rumours that the bid from Bank of Scotland, 45.5p higher at 795.5p, could be trumped by Royal Bank of Scotland, 115p better at 1391p, HSBC, up 23p to 726p, or foreign rivals. Lloyds TSB put on another 59p to 786.5p on hopes of a deal, possibly with Legal & General, 3.75p better to 184.25, which is also rumoured to be in the sights of Abbey National, 60p higher at 1146p. Sitting duck Norwich Union also rose 1.75p to 461.25p.

Bid rumours were not confined to the financials. Allied Domecq jumped 23p to 348.25p on revived whispers of a strike from France's Pernod Ricard, US rival Bacardi or Canadian giant Seagram.

Mining stocks Anglo American, up 304p to 3,531p, and Billiton, 11.25p higher at 252.75p, were buoyed by an international freeze on gold sales. Minnows Gold Mines of Sardinia, 3.5p better at 21.75p, and Glencar Mining, 4.25p to 28.75p also benefited.

Retailers had an odd day. Marks & Spencer rose 14.5p to 315.5p despite a profit warning as analysts said that worst is over. Storehouse also warned on earnings and also rose 4p to 92.5p on renewed talk of a bid from entrepreneur Philip Green or Debenhams, down 14p to 316p. Arcadia, down 11.75p to 158.25p and Iceland, 15p lower to 285p, were unsettled by their rivals' comments on the poor state of the High Street. Drug group Medeva shot 7.5p higher to 140.5p on hopes of a hostile bid from Irish peer Elan, unchanged at 1900p. Rival Axis-Shield firmed 2.5p to 380p on talk that a positive advice from broker Nomura could be followed by a bullish note from Warburg Dillon Read. Cement-maker Rugby firmed 0.75p to 95.5p on rehashed whisper of a foreign bid.

Glass-maker Pilkington cracked 5.25p lower to 109.75p as the trading statement did not bring the expected MBO. Picture booths operator Photo- Me clicked 215p higher to 1402.5p on talk that its strategic review could lead to a bid.

The construction tiddler Multi Equipment Rental was unchanged at 25.25p despite a 29 per cent rise in interim profits and an upbeat trading statement.

Explorer Dana Petroleum confirmed its Dutch gas find and rose 1p to 13p.



GILTS INDEX: 102.96 -0.64

BRACE YOURSELVES, super bull is in town. Ralph Acampora, the ever- optimistic technical analyst at America's Prudential Securities with a knack for getting it right, was in London yesterday to preach to hundreds of UK converts. True to form, Mr Acampora expects the Dow to go higher. Much higher. He is forecasting the US index will more than double to reach 20-25,000 points in five to eight years, driven by low inflation and high productivity.

THE AILING Freeserve, results today, got some much-needed help from Merrill Lynch. The stock rose 15p to return to the 150p offer price after the broker started coverage by advising clients to buy the Internet provider as a long-term investment. Merrills believes Freeserve will be one of three main Net portals to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the mouse-clicking public. It expects first-quarter revenues of pounds 2.9m and 1.4 million active users.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Equity | New York

Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...

Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation

Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...

Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?