Market Report: Cupid jilted after blogger's whispers

 

Love affairs are often rocky – lustful highs can be followed by crushing lows. Yesterday investors jilted the online dating group Cupid after stories circulated on the internet about an investigation into its practices. Punters dumped the stock and sent the shares in the AIM-listed dating specialist down more than 10 per cent.

The group was forced to issue a statement on the price move and said it knew "no material reason for the movement", but admitted a blogger had written about a programme due to air on BBC Radio 5 Live on Sunday about possible issues with the type of people that use its websites.

Despite the crash in the shares – Cupid was nursing a broken heart with a 21.25p loss to 135.25p – romantic City analysts defended Cupid's affairs.

House broker Peel Hunt's Paul Morland, said: "Unfortunately, the Cupid share price is susceptible to scare stories, and one blog in particular has done some damage this week. We are confident that nothing has happened in the last month to undermine the 'buy' case, and investors should use this unjustified weakness to top up holdings."

He retains their share price target of 290p, and added: "With sites such as BeNaughty.com there is always going to be ammunition for scare stories around Cupid. We have examined the one that appears to have damaged the share price this week. We can find little new, many inaccuracies and nothing that concerns us."

Last year there was chatter that Cupid had its own admirer – in the shape of the US internet giant Interactive Corporation, owner of websites including Match.com. But babble on the bid subsided after it announced plans for a share buy-back of around 10 per cent of the company in December.

After a turbulent week, better trade data from China and Germany lifted equity markets. Big sell-offs on Monday and Thursday will take some time to recover, and traders expected the benchmark index to find it difficult to edge above 6,280 in the near future. The better global economic data helped the FTSE 100 index to add 35.51 points to 6263.93.

The telecoms group Vodafone was back in the bid spotlight after another analyst – this time Bank of American Merrill Lynch – penned its view on the likelihood of a bid from joint venture partner Verizon. It gave it a buy rating with a 215p share price target and the shares dialled up a 2.05p gain to 173.9p.

Analysts at UBS ran the numbers on the credit checker company Experian and rated it a buy, up from neutral with a 1,300p price target. The shares responded by rising 13p to 1,096p.

Imperial Tobacco was out of puff after Investec scribblers kicked the habit and reduced their rating to hold, from buy. They gave the shares a 2,450p price target and the shares fell 47p to 2,300p.

On the mid-cap index bid rumours continued to surround the interdealer broker Tullett Prebon and its shares added another 16.4p to 285.1p.

JD Sports is about to tick off another item on its shopping list with another purchase this weekend. The sports and fashion business is buying the shoe website Cloggs. The shares added 11p to 779p.

The Governor of New Jersey meanwhile dealt a winning hand to online gambling outfits. News that the US state is close to allowing internet gambling has got the City betting it is the first step to other states relaxing their legislation. Shares in Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment and 888 Holdings cleaned up on the news. The mid-tier dweller Bwin.Party jumped more than 16 per cent – gaining 19.1p to 135.8p – and small-cap 888 totted up 19.25p to 135p.

Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, had previously opposed the Bill and it was expected that he would veto the move outright. This time he set out the parameters within which he would sign the Bill after amendments – viewed as a mid-term green light.

Cable & Wireless Communications reported trading in line with expectations and said it is increasing investment and cutting costs as part of its planned turnaround. The shares edged up 0.01p to 40.7p.

A big seller of Trinity Mirror shares looked to have been cleared and a spike in volume pushed the share price of the newspaper owner up 6.75p to 110.5p.

Aim-listed tech group WanDisco, which happens to be based in both Sheffield and California, launched a big data product platform and the shares climbed 62.5p to 735p.

Buy

SuperGroup

Seymour Pierce has taken a shine to SuperGroup. The broker says the retailer of the trendy Superdry line (which has weathered some storms recently) "has now established a platform to push ahead in the development of the brand on the internet and overseas", and it is undervalued. It gives a target price of 750p for shares presently at 730p.

Sell

RBS

Investec has a downer on taxpayer-owned RBS (hasn't everyone?) and advises dumping its shares. The broker says that given the bank's "weak loan growth", it sees a very slow pace of recovery, which does not, in its view, support the present share price of 339.1p. It gives a target of 290p.

Hold

Reckitt Benckiser

Hang on to shares in Reckitt Benckiser, Panmure Gordon suggests. The broker says that sterling weakness against the euro has boosted its forecast for the business — the world's largest producer of household cleaning goods — by about 3 per cent, but full-year numbers will be "pretty flat". Shares at present are about 4,235p and Panmure gives a target of 4,130p.

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