The Footsie spent its fourth day in the red but possible takeover activity in the consumer goods sector was a shot in the arm Reckitt Benckiser yesterday.
Rumours that the US pharmaceutical group Merck could sell its consumer care business to Reckitt pushed the latter up nearly 3 per cent. Merck, whose consumer care division owns products including allergy brand Claritin, could be worth as much as $10bn (£6.1bn). Analysts at Citigroup said: “Reckitt has a good track record on M&A in terms of sales and synergies and we believe a deal would be strategically sound, but not at any price.” Reckitt jumped 102p to 4,665p – one of the top risers on the blue chip leaderboard.
The FTSE 100 lost another 44.78 points to 6,465.66, its fourth fall in as many days, as emerging markets fears continued to concern traders. It has lost more than 3.5 per cent since the start of the year.
Lloyds Banking Group fell 3.31p to 79.99p after revealing it has had to set aside another £1.8bn for PPI mis-selling.
Gold miner Randgold Resources issued a better-than-expected fourth-quarter update despite lower profit than the previous year. It maintained its dividend and lifted 262p to 4,455p.
Analysts at Jefferies noted that engineer Weir is a potential takeover target but warned that 2014 will be “another challenging year” so rated it hold. It climbed 29p to 2,123p.
HSBC said “investors may ask whether they should... buy on the third profit warning” at educational publisher Pearson. But the stock is still not cheap enough, HSBC argued, pointing out it is one of the most heavily shorted in the sector, according to research group Markit. Pearson was 5p weaker at 1,107p.
Premier Foods fell 5.25p to 138p after speculation that it would announce a rights issue in the next month.
Bruno Guillon, the chief executive of AIM-listed Mulberry, still has the support of its majority owners – billionaire Ong Beng Seng and wife Christina – despite its third profit warning last week. The Ongs bought another 140,000 shares, priced at 660p, last week after the shares fell more than 25 per cent. Yesterday the leather brand slipped 19p to 650.5p.