Market Report: Saga's private equity backers are slowly retiring


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The Independent Online

Saga’s private equity backers are slowly retiring. Bank of America Merrill Lynch said yesterday that it was shifting 45 million shares in the over-50s company on behalf of Acromas at a minimum of 185p – exactly the price at which it floated last May.

Acromas took plenty of flak for that offering: critics said the shares were overpriced. But the City seems to think 185p is a fair deal now. After the markets closed, the bankers announced that the total being hawked had risen to 66 million, 6 per cent of the company, thanks to strong demand from institutional investors. Acromas will be left with 66 per cent of Saga, up 4.7p at 189.7p.

You wait 15 years for a record high and then two come along at once. Just two days after setting an all-time record, the FTSE 100 did it again by the slimmest of margins. The index closed up 14.35 points at 6,949.73 – just 0.1 points above Tuesday’s record.

Both JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs trimmed their target prices for Centrica, the British Gas owner, citing lower commodity prices, election uncertainty and a five-month wait for its strategy update. Centrica dipped 5.4p to 245.6p.

AO World’s ignominious decline continues. After a profit warning sent it tumbling nearly 30 per cent in the previous session, the online white goods retailer shed a further 10p to 182p yesterday as JP Morgan downgraded the company and AO’s biggest critic, Panmure Gordon’s Mike Stewart, stuck the knife in. “A substantial derating of a stock can often provide an attractive entry point to investors,” he said, “but we do not think it will in this instance.” Ouch.

The online betting software business Playtech leapt 39p to 777p as it unveiled a 24 per cent rise in revenues to €457m (£331m) and a 29 per cent rise in profits. The company said recent trading had been good, thanks in part to the weakness of the euro.

Lord Blackwell, the  former adviser to Margaret Thatcher and John Major, is bowing out as chairman of Interserve. The announcement came as the construction company reported a 33 per cent growth in revenues last year and a record pipeline of future jobs. Interserve climbed 57p to 614p.