Market Report: I'm a Celebrity lifts ITV in ads jungle

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The Independent Online

Most people watching I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here are probably squirming at the behaviour of its inmates, Z-listers and creepy crawlies alike. Not City analysts: they're busy working out whether better viewing figures should affect their forecasts for its broadcaster.

Saturday's final, which, for those that weren't watching, saw EastEnders actress Charlie Brooks emerge victorious, prompted Panmure Gordon's Alex DeGroote to yesterday proclaim that the show's popularity is good news for shares in ITV.

"The final of I'm a Celebrity had a peak audience of 10.6 million, which was a 47 per cent share of TV viewers," Mr DeGroote said. "This is significant because the ability to deliver major prime-time audiences is key to advertising and, in turn, content/format sales. If anything, the entertainment genre, as opposed to drama, has been tougher for ITV this year."

The fact that Sunday nights will still be Downton nights is another reason to buy shares in ITV, he suggested: "ITV also recently confirmed that filming of eight new episodes [of Downton Abbey] for autumn 2013, plus an extended special episode for Christmas 2013 begins at Highclere Castle and Ealing Studios in February." Taking this all into account, he concluded "the shares remain well supported and, in our view, the valuation is attractive".

He wasn't the only one switching on as ITV jumped 1.5p to 100.4p. That's its highest share price for more than five years.

Traders hoping for a Santa Rally – not another sponsored fun run in Father Christmas hats but a rising stock market in December – enjoyed a promising start to the first trading day of the month. Encouraging economic data from China and the UK helped in early trading, but with manufacturing figures from the States disappointing and the spectre of the fiscal cliff remaining, by the bell the FTSE 100 had lost much of its initial gains to close a mere 4.42 points higher at 5,871.24.

Top of the pile was Melrose. The engineer shot up 6.2p to 219.3p, although despite the climb it has still shed more than 7 per cent since its profit warning last month.

Fund manager Schroders was among the major risers on the Footsie, climbing 25p to 1,621p on the back of an upgrade to buy from neutral at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. However, the majority of financial stocks were out of favour. Hargreaves Lansdown was left with the wooden spoon, with the fund supermarket group slipping 20.5p to 736.5p.

A number of the banks were also weak. Lloyds dropped 0.76p to 45.74p while Royal Bank of Scotland declined 2.6p to 292.6p.

The reaction to BP's strategy update, in which the energy giant announced plans to up its capital spending to between $24bn (£15bn) to $27bn from 2014 to 2020, was rather muted. It edged back 1.45p to 430.15p, with investors not prompted into action by the company saying that it was moving towards a simpler future.

On the FTSE 250, the news that buy-to-let lender Paragon Group is in talks over a deal that could grant it a banking licence gave its shares an upward shove. The firm said it was in exclusive talks with Hampshire Trust, a tiny private bank which lends to property developers and solicitors.

Paragon has been doing well all year – its shares have risen by nearly a third in 2012 – because banks' closed doors have seen customers flock to it. Its shares picked up 1.8p to 242p.

There might be many ways to skin a cat but none may be for testing make-up. That's the verdict of the EU, which from March is banning any cosmetic that contains ingredients tested on animals.

AIM-listed dermatology group Evocutis, which makes fake skin to be used in labs, reckons it's set to capitalise. The group was flaunting its potential yesterday when it said that it had called in consultants Growth Innovators Group and advisers Zeus Capital to "evaluate a number of strategic options", including joining up with a long-term, strategic partner and an offer being made for the company.

Evocutis admits its major product, LabSkin, "will take some time to develop significant revenue generation".

But it still reckons it's a "highly competitive technology, capable of outperforming other product-testing approaches in the market". Shares in the penny stock rose 0.05p to 0.88p.


Snap up shares in Cineworld, Investec urges. Investec calls it "a strong operator" and says the business "is well set to drive incremental revenues, given its attention to detail and evolving offer". It gives the company's shares a target price of 280p each (they are 249.25p just now).

Hold: Work Group

Hang on to shares in Work Group, Merchant Securities advises. The broker gives a target price of 7.5p.


Seymour Pierce suggests selling miner Aquarius Platinum. It gives the shares a price target of 34p.