Market Report: TalkTalk seeks to spoil BT's party


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Speculators are taking flight from BT on signs that the telecoms giant might not have it all its own way.

BT has rocketed over 11 per cent since O2 and EE confirmed two weeks ago that both are in talks to sell themselves to the telecoms giant.

BT hit a 10-month high on Tuesday but pulled back sharply today after Dido Harding, chief executive of rival TalkTalk, sought to spoil the party. In an interview Ms Harding called for regulator Ofcom to look at forcing BT to spin off its infrastructure arm Openzone, a potentially costly move. BT slipped 9.6p to 408.3p, while TalkTalk lost 0.9p to 304p.

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement commanded attention in the City but there was little in its content to push the blue-chip index one way or the other, and the FTSE 100 closed down 25.47 points at 6,716.63.

Royal Mail’s woes continued, falling a further 7.5p to 398p on top of steep falls in the previous session. The slide was sparked by regulator Ofcom’s dismissal of the postie’s qualms over competition in the sector.

Accountancy and payroll software provider Sage was the best performer on the FTSE, rocketing 18.9p to 422.1p, after meeting forecasts with full-year numbers and confirming it is still on track to hit future targets.

Barratt Developments, 7.9p better at 458.9p, and Taylor Wimpey, up 2.2p at 132.5p, are today set to join the top-flight index as part of the quarterly reshuffle, while IMI, off 8p at 1,156p, and Petrofac, down 6p at 806.5p, are being bumped out. Those joining the mid-cap index include recently floated Jimmy Choo, up 1.25p at 176p, and the resurrected Game Digital, down 2p at 340p.

The UK’s largest independent North Sea oil producer, EnQuest, leapt 5.76p to 49p on the mid-cap index after the Chancellor announced tax cuts to encourage investment in the area.

Executives at Legoland owner Merlin are cashing in with shares at a nine-month high. Barclays announced after markets had closed that it is placing 8.2 million shares on behalf of executives – excluding chief executive Nick Varney. Merlin finished up 2.4p at 383.9p.