On the up: Legal & General

SHARES in Legal & General soared by nearly 15 per cent as National Westminster Bank announced that the two companies are in talks which could lead to the takeover of the insurance group.

NatWest, which has 1,730 branches in the UK and six million personal customers, would be buying a life and pension provider which owns a bank and an asset management business. L&G would bring NatWest pounds 93.6bn in managed funds and expand its financial products. It may also help NatWest compete with rivals such as Lloyds TSB Group, which paid pounds 7bn for Scottish Widows Fund & Life Assurance Society in July. Founded in 1836 to serve lawyers, L&G trades at 48 times earnings, making it the most expensive life insurer.