Market Report: Shire falls from grace as takeover talk goes quiet

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The Independent Online

As the blue-chip index dropped to its lowest level for five weeks, Shire was among the stocks in the red with the pharmaceutical company weakened by ailing takeover hopes.

Bid talk has been a constant presence around the group for a while now, helped by the perceived attractiveness of its drugs portfolio, and vague speculation suggesting Germany's Bayer could make a possible move emerged last month.

The chitter-chatter has helped Shire's share price to shoot up nearly 40 per cent over the past year, but yesterday it was pegged back 73p to 2,026p after JP Morgan dismissed the rumours as "improbable".

"[Shire's] current valuation includes some bid speculation, which we believe is unlikely to be realised," said the broker, which downgraded its rating to "neutral". The analysts cited the group's recent rise as another reason behind them removing their support for the stock, saying there were few events in the near future likely to drive it up further.

Collins Stewart's Emmanuel Papadakis added to the bearish mood around Shire, reiterating his "sell" advice following the group's update last week. Its second-quarter figures may have come in ahead of forecasts, but Mr Papadakis said "questions remain", with the analyst noting concerns over – among other issues – "declining HIV royalties, increased operating expense guidance, and continued disappointment from launch products".

As bond yields for both Italy and Spain reached their highest level since the euro's launch, growing fears over the state of the eurozone – and yet more poor economic data from the US – meant the FTSE 100 fell by 56.04 points to 5,718.39, its lowest since June.

Despite becoming the second bank this week to positively surprise with its interim results, Barclays finished narrowly behind, creeping down 0.25p to 216.75p.

Meanwhile, HSBC was still advancing in the wake of its figures on Monday, climbing 2.6p to 610.1p even though Royal Bank of Scotland's analysts cut their advice to "hold" and warned it "remains heavily dependent on economic conditions in the US and Europe".

Hargreaves Lansdown was left with the top-tier index's wooden spoon as the wealth manager plummeted 73.5p to 506.5p – a move of nearly 13 per cent. Investors were reacting to the Financial Services Authority's statement on Monday that it was planning to prevent payments from investment managers to platform providers, such as Hargreaves, although the company itself insisted that the new changes "will result in no material impact on our business".

A number of the water companies improved after Northumbrian Water – which shot up by 20.1p to 469.5p on the FTSE 250 – agreed to Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings' 465p-a-share takeover approach.

The sector has been a deep source of takeover speculation in recent months, and Severn Trent, one of the most frequent names mentioned in bid gossip, ticked up 35p to 1,451p while its fellow blue-chip peer United Utilities was lifted 6.5p to 591p.

In the wider utility sector, National Grid was also higher as it powered up 12p to 602.5p. The group was helped by Liberum Capital's analysts choosing it as one of the broker's top stocks, praising its defensive qualities and adding that "the company could create significant value for shareholders through a demerger of the US business."

They were much less keen on Cable & Wireless Communications, however, warning that the mid-tier telecommunications group – which yesterday jumped down 1.37p to 35.49p – could see its share price halve thanks in part to its poor cashflow, despite already losing over a quarter since its full-year results in May.

Still, the most dramatic fall of the day came from Centamin Egypt, which had 20 per cent of its stock wiped out after cutting its production expectations. The gold miner slipped back by 28.2p to 109.6p as it blamed blast restrictions, leaving it at its lowest level for 18 months.

Enterprise Inns was nursing its sorrows, declining 3.45p to 50.3p after UBS reduced its price target to 60p from 80p, warning investors that it currently looks set to be demoted to the small-cap index at the next indices reshuffle.

Its peer Punch Taverns was knocked back 0.71p to 12.29p on its last day on the FTSE 250 in the wake of spinning-off Spirit Pub Company at the start of the week. Spirit, meanwhile, slid 5p to 50p, meaning that combined they are now lower than Punch's closing price on Friday before the break-up of 63.55p.

Down on the Alternative Investment Market, Bowleven retreated 46.5p to 178.5p after Matrix's Charlie Sharp responded to the West Africa-focused explorer's drilling update on Monday by downgrading his rating to "reduce" from "buy", saying "the potential upside now looks less enticing".