Market Report: Cove Energy still in demand as one bidder quits


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The Independent Online

And three became two. The battle for Cove Energy took another twist yesterday after one of the three potential bidders threw in the towel. Yet despite the Indian consortium made up of Oil & Natural Gas Corp and Gail India deciding to pull out, that did nothing to quench the punters' thirst for the Mozambique-focused driller.

Even though just Royal Dutch Shell and Thailand's PTT remain in the fight, the Aim-listed oil explorer moved close to a record high by rising 2p to 266p.

Punters are banking on the highest bid currently on the table – worth 240p-a-share from PTT – being dwarfed by a counter offer from Shell (up 4.5p to 2,193p), which last week gave itself more time in which to consider its options by extending the deadline for its 220p-a-pop approach.

Although Shell at the time chose not to increase its offer, hopes in the Square Mile are certainly high that it will and there are no shortage of numbers being thrown around.

Dealers highlighted talk that the energy giant may offer up to 300p, while there was some hopeful speculation it could go even higher.

Reports over the weekend were more tempered, however, claiming the most Shell may be considering paying is 275p. Of course, it could also decide not to raise its offer at all – if so, there will be no shortage of burnt fingers.

An early gain was swiftly erased as the FTSE 100 closed just 12.28 points higher at 5,491.09, with any joy following the Greek elections disappearing amid continuing fears over Spain.

There was no bounce for the banks – Royal Bank of Scotland retreated 12.3p to 2353p while Lloyds dipped 1.14p to 30.16p despite being chosen by UBS as one of the broker's favourite European stocks.

It was a mixed day for the commodity stocks as Xstrata and Glencore were pegged back 31.8p to 859.2p and 12.05p to 328.4p respectively, with many still fearful investors will reject the proposed merger between the two.

Elsewhere, Evraz – part-owned by Roman Abramovich, pictured – advanced 4.2p to 275p as it held its annual general meeting. Traders noted the steel maker has shed more than a quarter of its share price since early May.

Despite being in the midst of Euro 2012 – a perfect excuse for football fans to raise their booze intake – there were some worries around the brewers.

Given the poor weather across Europe over the past few months, analysts at Exane BNP Paribas warned that any boost from events in Poland and Ukraine were likely to be offset by the rain.

"Simply put, we believe that the match pitting Euro 2012 v dreadful weather will be won by the latter," they argued.

However, they did point out that Grolsch-owner SABMiller may not be so badly hit because its exposure is wider than some of its rivals, and with perfect timing there came the news that full-year profits at its subsidiary Tanzania Breweries had gained more than a third, helping SAB up 24.5p to 2,478.5p.

Upmarket retailer Burberry strutted up 38p to 1,346p after Deutsche Bank's scribblers said that the "luxury sector has never had it so good".

Meanwhile, Wolseley fans were out in force. Sam Cullen from Jefferies claimed that the builders' merchant could end up returning as much as £1.5bn to shareholders, while Citigroup's Clyde Lewis said he believed the group – which powered up 57p to 2,233p – had the potential to be worth a massive 5,000p by 2015.

It was a tough first day for Footsie newboy Babcock International, with the defence services group retreating 7p to 865p. Meanwhile, Man Group – which made way for it by dropping into the FTSE 250 – eased up 1.6p to 74.4p following the surprise departure of its finance director, Kevin Hayes.

Elsewhere on the mid-tier index, Ferrexpo climbed 7.6p to 209.9p as long-standing takeover speculation made yet another reappearance.

Gem Diamonds was driven back 7.8p to 201.2p after announcing that, following a tragic accident at its Ghangoo mine in Botswana which killed two workers, production at the site would now be delayed until the first six months of 2014.

Down on Aim, Invista was lifted 2.25p to 14.62p by the news that the property company had received and agreed to a £40m offer from investment manager Palmer Capital which gazumped an earlier approach from Internos Real Investments.

FTSE 100 Risers

Ashmore 340.9p (up 9.9p, 2.99 per cent) Having dropped sharply at the end of last week, fund manager manages a decent rebound despite JP Morgan Cazenove cutting its target price to 335p from 385p.

Rolls-Royce 839.5p (up 17.5p, 2.13 per cent) Engineering giant climbs as it announces that it has signed a nuclear submarines contract worth more than £1bn with the Ministry of Defence.

FTSE 100 Fallers

ICAP 362.2p (down 3.3p, 0.9 per cent) Interdealer broker finishes the session in the red after shareholders at PLUS Markets approve the sale of the stock market to ICAP for £500,000.

Anglo American 2,128.5p (down 1.5p, 0.07 per cent) Miner edges back despite analysts at UBS deciding to keep their "buy" recommendation, although they do cut their target price to 3,100p from 3,260p.

FTSE 250 Risers

Cable & Wireless Worldwide 37.77p (up 2.74p, 7.82 per cent) Telecoms company tops the mid-tier index after announcing that shareholders have decide to approve Vodafone's takeover approach.

Home Retail 74.35p (up 4.5p, 6.44 per cent) The Argos-owner shoots up ahead of today's interim management statement following yet more takeover speculation over the weekend.

FTSE 250 Fallers

Petropavlovsk 472.2p (down 22.3p, 4.51 per cent) Having gained more than a fifth during the last two sessions, investors take profits in the gold miner as the price of yellow metal moves back.

Grainger 83.1p (down 3.6p, 4.15 per cent) Property investor's torrid run continues, with the latest fall meaning the stock has lost nearly eight per cent during six consecutive sessions in the red.