Market Report: Peppa Pig owner's shares fatten on movie deal talk

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The Independent Online

Lights, camera ... action? With Entertainment One, the co-owner of kids' favourite cartoon porcine Peppa Pig, on the search for acquisitions, The King's Speech-backer Alliance Films has long been rumoured to be in its sights. Yesterday, with the sale process of the Canadian firm looking set to be completed in a matter of weeks, City scribblers were claiming that – win or lose – punters would be switching onto the media firm.

Entertainment One's share price has been in the doldrums ever since it decided in February to scrap plans to sell itself and instead look to make its own purchases. The reason for the weakness, suspects Canaccord Genuity's Alan Howard, is fears over a deal for Alliance being dilutive and whether a fundraising would be launched as a result.

With the news on who has won the race for Alliance – which as well as financing the Colin Firth-starring, Oscar-winning period drama, pictured below, also owns the film distributor Momentum Pictures – expected within a month, the analyst argued that whether Entertaiment One is successful or not, it would "likely encourage the market to look again at [its] strong fundamentals".

Investors weren't ready to pile in quite yet, however. Despite Mr Howard keeping his "buy" recommendation and target price of 237p, Entertainment One ended up following the rest of the market down by falling 1p to 156.5p

The week ended with a bloodbath in the Square Mile as the FTSE 100 closed 111.49 points lower at 5,655.06. Nervousness ahead of key elections on the continent this weekend didn't help, but the fall was being largely pinned on US non-farm payroll figures showing less jobs were added in the States last month than expected.

Commodity stocks bore the brunt of the damage, with heavyweight miners such as Kazakhmys (down 51p to 774p) and Eurasian Natural Resources (down 33p to 520p) not helped by Australia taking a knife to its economic growth forecast.

Tullow Oil was another blue-chip company deep in the red. The oil explorer slipped back 88p to 1,469p following the news that its Teak-4A appraisal well off the shore of Ghana is being plugged and abandoned, with Société Générale's David Mirzai warning it "may delay commercialisation plans".

One of the few bright points was provided by Lloyds as – having fallen for the past two days – it rebounded 0.98p to 32.62p after surprisingly strong first-quarter results from fellow state-owned bank Royal Bank of Scotland, which still crept back 0.08p to 24.47p.

Following last month's resignation of boss David Brennan, AstraZeneca received some support on further optimism the reshuffle will result in a major shake-up of the drugs giant. UBS's Gbola Amusa claimed there was now an increasing "likelihood of strategic announcements in 2012 that would unleash value in Astra's shares", and reiterated his belief that it could become a takeover target.

Saying it was one of several scenarios which could provide "dramatic upside", he added the group to UBS's list of "key calls". However, despite staying ahead for most of the session, Astra ended up 0.08p weaker at 24.47p.

Down on the FTSE 250, builder Taylor Wimpey was knocked back 3.96p to 47.69p by the latest figures from Halifax showing house prices fell last month to their lowest in almost three years.

Having added nearly 10 per cent in less than a month, Debenhams was 5.05p off at 80.4p. Liberum Capital's scribes decided it was time to sell the department store, saying it was facing increasing rent costs and falling margins.

Dairy Crest was bumped up 2.4p to 306.1p as it milked acclaim from Jefferies, with the broker – starting its coverage of the cheesemaker with a "buy" recommendation" – claiming the group's share price " undervalues its stable of top-tier brands".

There was no let-up for Cable & Wireless Worldwide. Fears over the future of its takeover by Vodafone (down 1.2p to 171.8p), which 19 per cent shareholder Orbis has been moaning about, saw the telecoms firm fall for the fifth straight session, sliding 0.19p to 32.76p despite the bid being priced at 38p-a-pop.

On AIM, Plexus Holdings spurted up 4.5p to 128p after the oil and gas engineering services firm signed a contract worth £1.3m with the blue-chip energy giant BG Group.