Market Report: Decision day dawns for bids by CWW's suitors

Today's the day for Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CWW). More than six weeks after Vodafone first revealed it could make an offer for the telecoms group, the mobile phone giant and its rival, Tata Communications, have until 5pm this evening to decide whether to make a bid.

Last night, CWW finished in the red for the fourth-consecutive session, sliding 1p to 34p ahead of the "put up or shut up" deadline. With its share price having risen more than 70 per cent since the takeover battle kicked off, traders said a number of investors were being tempted into profit taking before the saga comes to an end.

Bernstein Research's Robin Bienenstock was rather cautious, reiterating her view that "it is by no means certain, nor necessary" that Vodafone – which crept back 0.35p to 173.7p – will make an offer, although she added that the "financial synergies could be substantial".

She did say, however, that with India's Tata reportedly trying to raise as much as £1.6bn in funding, if "this were the magnitude of offer that [it] is prepared to offer then we think that Vodafone could easily justify a higher bid".

In addition, the analyst argued a deal may "have wider ramifications for the rest of the UK telecom sector", saying that BT (unmoved at 227.6p) "has no doubt benefited from... weak competition" from CWW, which "would undoubtedly pose a bigger threat... in the hands of Vodafone".

Of course, there is always the possibility of the deadline being extended, with recent reports claiming both potential bidders are keen to get more time to decide whether to make a move.

The session did not start well for the FTSE 100 after latest figures showed GDP had fallen faster over the last three months of 2011 than previously thought. However, a late slide following poor durable goods data from the US did the real damage as the blue-chip index finished 60.56 points worse off at 5,808.99.

A number of defensive stocks were in favour, with investors continuing to check into Whitbread. The Premier Inn-owner jumped 39p to 1,849p, meaning that it has now added nearly 12 per cent in a mere three weeks.

Shire was another defensive name in favour as it climbed 17p to 2,140p. The pharmaceuticals group, often the subject of speculation that it could attract a suitor, was supported by reports claiming US drugs group Bristol-Myers Squibb last month had a $3.5bn (£2.2bn) approach rejected for Amylin – which itself has been linked in the past as a possible target for AstraZeneca (down 24.5p to 2,806p).

RSA took the wooden spoon, sliding 8.7p to 107.7p as it traded ex-dividend, with Lloyd's of London's announcement that last year was its worst-ever for catastrophe claims hardly helping the mood around the insurance sector.

Meanwhile, the rest of the loserboard was dominated by commodity stocks amid further fears over demand from China. Miner Vedanta Resources fell 72p to 1,232p while the Roman Abramovich-backed steel maker Evraz was knocked back 21p to 359.8p after announcing a full-year net profit nearly a third lower than what the City was expecting.

Down on the FTSE 250, Centamin slumped 9.26 per cent to 71.05p on its admission that Egypt's financial problems means the gold digger is only currently receiving an industry subsidy on half of its fuel. The group – which was hit by a strike three weeks ago – has now shed close to 30 per cent in less than two months, as dealers warned it was "more negative news that people are eager to jump on the back of".

Ophir Energy continued its fantastic week, pushing up 5.9p to 494p on news it had completed a placing of 30.5 million shares at 495p a pop. The Africa-focused explorer, which unveiled its largest-ever gas discovery on Monday, said it would put the cash towards an expansion of its drilling plans.

Elsewhere, as politicians rushed to show what big fans they were of baked goods amid the furore over the "pasty tax", high street baker Greggs could only edge back 4p to 514p.

Mulberry was strutting its stuff down on AIM, advancing 82p to 1,982p. The luxury-handbag maker was given a "buy" rating by Goldman Sachs analysts who, taking their first look at the firm, claimed it could more than treble in size by 2016.

A warning that its full-year numbers will "substantially" miss market expectations wiped more than a fifth off ATH Resources' share price, with the coal producer – which said the mild winter was partly to blame – dropping 4.88p to 16.5p.

Among the small-cap stocks, Chime ticked up 6.75p to 218.5p on the announcement that Sir Martin Sorrell's media empire WPP (which was 5p weaker at 862.5p on the Footsie) has raised its stake in the public relations group to 19.14 per cent.

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