Market Report: Oil giants expected to ride out 'fix' storm

While Westminster worried about the scale of an oil price-fixing scandal, the City took a more sanguine view. Tuesday's raid of the oil giants' offices by the European Commission – the start of an investigation into allegations of fixing that could have affected millions of motorists – fuelled fears that the oil majors are facing their very own version of the banks' Libor disgrace.

But oil experts played down the potential size of the problem yesterday.

ING's Quirijn Mulder said "the difference with the Libor scandal is that the energy market is truly worldwide, with prices volatile and reacting to all sorts of news. The number of players in that market is very high," which suggests that fixing is harder to do. RBC Capital's Peter Hutton said that the fact the investigation is in its early stages means it is "hard to see … what we should be reacting to".

The London-listed oil giants were down, but there was no large sell-off. Shell suffered a 55p slide to 2,300.5p while BP dipped 0.95p to 467.6p.

One of the companies raided was the price information firm Platts.

There are suspicions that oil companies may have colluded when delivering information to Platts on the prices of crude oil, oil products and biofuels, potentially distorting benchmarks, and some smaller companies have said they have been excluded from the pricing process. It is this that had led to concerns there could be wider price-rigging.

The Prime Minister said the allegations of price fixing are "deeply worrying" and the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, promised that the "full force of the law" would be brought down on the companies if the allegations were found to be true.

But Mr Mulder added, "nothing has been proven yet, and it could take years before there is any outcome."

The wider market began the day in negative territory after eurozone GDP was below consensus forecasts.

But after the Bank of England's Governor, Sir Mervyn King, in his last quarterly Inflation Report, predicted a faster fall in UK inflation and forecast a "brighter economic outlook", the FTSE 100 finished the day up 7.49 points at 6,693.55.

The water group Severn Trent rejected a £5bn takeover approach from a consortium of Canadian and Kuwaiti investors, and the shares flowed up another 13p to 2,090p.

The London Stock Exchange, which revealed a 5 per cent rise in full-year income, said it was seeking partnerships with fast-growing exchanges. It expanded 71p to 1,406p.

Polymetal got a boost from analysts at Liberum Capital, who lifted their rating to buy from hold with a price target of 780p, but it declined 57.5p to 654.75p.

Investec began coverage of the recently listed small-cap insurer esure. It rated it a sell, and asked is "Sheilas' Wheels driving on a puncture?". It said the company's key differentiator to target older, low-risk and female drivers will be "increasingly hard … to maintain" after the EU December 2012 gender ruling, so sell at 201p. The shares drove down 1.25p to 313.75p.

Lonrho, the 104-year-old African focused conglomerate, agreed to a £175m takeover bid from two Swiss businessmen yesterday. The fund manager Rainer-Marc Frey and Switzerland's fourth-wealthiest man, Thomas Schmidheiny, already own 20 per cent of Lonrho through their bid vehicle FS Africa, and have won approval for a 10.25p-a-share bid from directors and other investors owning a further 18 per cent. Lonrho travelled up 4.7p to 9.9p.

Frankie & Benny's owner The Restaurant Group said total sales were up 11 per cent and like-for-like sales up 4.5 per cent for the first 19 weeks of this year. The 400-restaurants chain served up a 33.1p rise to 519p.

Film fans are visiting the cinema more often and spending more while they are there and cinema group Cineworld has benefited, it said. But the shares were 0.25p weaker at 325p.

Retail investors' favourite, Aim-listed Gulf Keystone, gushed 20.5p to 149.5p following expectations of better news from the company after blows including its court case with Excalibur Ventures.

The student digs provider GCP Student Living, which is due to list on Monday, has beaten its £50m target and raised £70m through a placing.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links