Market Report: Invesco's change of heart over Hibu

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Some of the shine may be wearing off fund management superstar Neil Woodford. Fresh from the mess that is JJB Sports, Mr Woodford's Invesco Perpetual is selling out of Yellow Pages owner Hibu.

Mr Woodford, who has a reputation of being one of the brightest fund managers in the land with around £20bn under management in his Invesco Perpetual Income and Invesco Perpetual High Income funds, is loved by investors for his shrewd buys and market-beating returns.

But he has had a change of heart on the ridiculously named Hibu, and his funds have reduced their stake from 24 per cent to 13.6 per cent this week and traders think more sell-offs could follow.

Mr Woodford's Hibu sell-off follows his JJB Sports wipe out. Invesco continued to buy into the struggling sportswear chain last year, stumping up cash to build a 34 per cent stake, only for this to be close to worthless now it is up for sale. JJB sank another 0.02p to 0.34p yesterday.

City gossips have said that buyers of the Hibu shares are opportunists hoping to squeeze investors who have shorted the stock.

Apparently Hibu is one of the most shorted stocks in the market with around 368 million shares out on loan, according to some who claim they are in the know.

Hibu jumped 60 per cent, up 0.23p to 0.61p as investors piled in, hoping to put a buyer squeeze on the shorters.

The company has struggled under a giant debt pile spent on acquisitions, while its business has been scuppered by the ever-growing competition from internet search firms like Google.

Yesterday it confirmed it had created a "co-ordinating committee of lenders" to start to sort out its huge £2.2bn of debts.

It has agreed the formation of the committee with creditors including GE Corporate Finance Bank, Blackstone's credit asset manager GSO Capital Partners and Royal Bank of Scotland.

The group will represent the struggling firms' long list of creditors with some pushing for a debt-for-equity swap. The shares have nosedived over the year and have plummeted from a high of 600p five years ago.

The City has put the summer lull well behind it with the rumour mill now nearly in full swing. Traders were boosted by news that, following whispers of a bidder circling, drinks maker Britvic confirmed merger talks with Irn-Bru-owner AG Barr.

The old chestnut that bidders are circling Sportingbet was given another airing and the shares moved up 1.25p to 42.5p.

Meanwhile, the price comparison website Moneysupermarket's rise of 6.5p to 141.5p was accompanied by rumours that it could be the subject of takeover. Moneysupermarket is currently buying MoneySavingExpert, but City voices whisper the likes of could be having a look.

Despite the gung-ho gossip, the FTSE 100 failed to regain yesterday's losses and fell again on euro crisis concerns, ahead of the European Central Bank meeting today. It lost 14.15 points to 5,657.86.

One of the index's biggest losers was the gas giant BG Group. Scribes at Jefferies lowered their share price target to 1,800p from 2,000p and said the group needs either to sell some of its Brazil assets or seek a merger or acquisition.

The price dropped 50p to 1,221p as traders chattered that Deutsche Bank's placing of 41 million shares at 1,225p each was a big institution selling out of the stock.

Randgold Resources has contended with the collapse of Mali's government this year, where it digs up around 60 per cent of its gold, but despite political unrest scribes at Barclays think it could be time to start buying its shares.

Gold has been the safe haven for money in an uncertain world, but Barclays said gold equities are now priced cheaply compared to the precious metal itself.

Barclays mining buff David Butler said: "Long-term investors should start looking to be more constructive on gold shares."

Barclays thinks Randgold, up 60p to 6,455p, is well placed to deliver a more "material dividend pay-out once its growth projects have ramped up".

Barclays started its coverage of the stock with "overweight" and it issued a share price target of 7,500p.

Barclays also rated Mexican silver and gold miner Fresnillo "overweight" with a price target for the stock of 1,800p and the shares moved up 26p to 1,638p.