Market Report: Talk of SFO inquiry hits Kazakh miner

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The Independent Online

Kazakh mining giant Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation is no stranger to controversy following a series of corporate governance issues, but news that the Serious Fraud Office could be considering a formal criminal inquiry left the miner buried at the bottom of the benchmark index.

Earlier this month the group parted company with law firm Dechert which it had hired to run its internal inquiry into potential corruption in its Kazakh and controversial Congo businesses.

But it emerged that the SFO has sent a section 2a notice to the legal firm concerning the investigation. The notice means the SFO can demand information at a "pre-investigation stage" when it suspects overseas bribery and corruption.

There is no indication yet that the SFO will pursue a formal inquiry but punters took fright at the suggestion.

ENRC has had a rotten April – the shares are down 30 per cent since the start of the month. Opportunistic investors lifted the shares a tad last week but these bottom fishers were left adrift when the shares declined 10.4p to 229.8p.

In February the group was the subject of takeover rumours with traders speculating that a bid was being lined up by a private European billionaire.

The rumours followed speculation that a bid from one of ENRC's joint founders – Alijan Ibragimov – had recently been rejected. Mr Ibragimov owns close to 15 per cent of the group. Its major investor, with a 26 per cent stake, is fellow miner Kazakhmys, which had also been indicated as a potential buyer.

The Kazakh government owns more than 26 per cent of Kazakhmys and would have to agree any deal. For now the takeover rumours have subsided.

After four days in the red the FTSE 100 began the day in positive territory with no new bad news to rattle investors. But during the afternoon, once the US had opened in the red, London looked less confident. The FTSE 100 couldn't hang on to its earlier gains and slipped into negative territory for a fifth day, dropping 0.54 points to 6243.67.

Michael Hewson, a senior market analyst at CMC Markets, said: "Equity markets started to roll over on vague chatter that a French bank might be in trouble and this sent banking stocks sharply lower."

Royal Bank of Scotland suffered at the hands of the rumour and closed 9.3p down at 273.95p, while Lloyds lost 1.14p to 47.085p.

Pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline got the thumbs up for its lung-disease drug when advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration gave their backing for its experimental treatment Breo Ellipta. The FDA will decide whether to give full approval by 12 May.

As a result, Glaxo's shares were looking healthy at an 11-year high, but analysts still think it is a good time to buy into the pharmaceutical group.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank raised their target price to 1,620p, while Kepler, rating the stock a buy, gave it a 1,770p price target. The shares were 51p better at 1,658p.

Oil group Tullow Oil recovered some of its falls. A dry well in French Guiana was the cause of its drop on Wednesday, but analysts at Société Générale said the 21 per cent fall in the share price this month creates a buying opportunity and gave it a 1,200p price target. The shares jetted 41.5p to 1,024p – to top the blue chips.

Car and aerospace engineer GKN, which makes parts for several vehicles including Ford Cougars, pictured, reported a 4 per cent fall in revenues, but analysts at Investec said that the group's margins were up and it "remains an attractively rated stock." The shares drove up 6.3p to 252p.

Mid-cap oil and gas explorer Soco International released some good news from its TGT field and the shares spurted 3.4p to 371.9p. The wooden spoon went to coal miner New World Resources. It has scrapped its full-year guidance as coal prices continue to hit the struggling central European group. The shares slumped 22.1p to 164.9p.

On Aim, shares in Europa Oil & Gas gushed up 1.5p to 9.62p after it announced plans for a farm out with Kosmos Energy for its prospect offshore of Ireland.