Market Report: Victrex benefits from takeover spotlight

The prospect of Victrex becoming a bid target was highlighted yesterday as positive broker comments helped the high-tech plastics company to surge up the mid-tier index.

The Lancashire-based group was driven forwards 45p to 1,395p, with traders pointing to the decision by Goldman Sachs to name it as the broker's "top pick" in the mid-cap chemicals sector. Initiating coverage on Victrex with a "buy" recommendation and a target price of 1,830p, Goldman described it as an "attractive acquisition" target because of its "unique technology and customer relationships".

Recommending the group toinvestors, the broker's analysts said it "presents an excellent opportunity to buy a consistently high-returning company", and they also praised its peers Croda and AZ Electronics, saying that all three "produce specialised products and operate in niche, high-growth markets with barriers to entry". The former put on 16p to 1,694p after the analysts said it was another company likely "to be the subject of merger and acquisition speculation", but AZ edged back 0.3p to 275.6p despite keeping its "buy" rating.

Overall, the FTSE 100 managed to climb above the 6,000 point level for the first time in almost a month, closing 101.16 points better off at 6,009.92. As well as noting that the first day of the month often produces gains, market voices said the closely watched US non-farm payroll report, which managed to beat expectations, had boosted investors' confidence.

The UK banking stocks dominated the top-tier leaderboard thanks to the fall-out from the Irish bank stress tests results, released late on Thursday, with Lloyds Banking Group advancing 2.91p to 61p. Capital Spreads' Angus Campbell said that "original concerns over the ... tests amounted to nothing", adding that the "recapitalisation of Ireland's banks has prevented nationalisation for now at least.

The insurers were also left higher. Prudential and Old Mutual rose 24p to 730.5p and 4.1p to 140.1p, the latter announcing that the planned sale of its US life unit to Harbinger had reached the next stage after being approved by regulators in Maryland.

BP was another company that finished stronger, helped by comments from JP Morgan Cazenove which said the energy giant stands out "as seriously underpriced" among its peers. The broker gave it a price target of 575p, and the group – which announced it had signed four new contracts for coal-bed methane areas in Indonesia that it will operate with local companies – shot up 16p to 470p.



On the FTSE 250, Premier Foods closed near the top after Morgan Stanleyupgraded the Mr Kipling owner to "overweight". "Having spent four years integrating acquisitions and thenrestructuring the financial fall-out of those deals," said the broker, "we think Premier is finally in a position to focus on delivering profitable growth."

The group was given a price target of 40p, and it responded by climbing 1.76p to 29.69p.

A terrible week for the retailers was brought to an end by the release of yet more worrying news, as John Lewis announced its latest weekly figures. The department store's sales were nearly 3.8 per cent below the same period a year ago, or 5.7 per cent without VAT, and Howard Archer, of IHS Global Insight, said the data was "particularly significant as John Lewis has been very much an out-performer in the retail sector."

Nonetheless, many of the high street stores were enjoying small rebounds after their large falls recently, including Dixons, up 0.15p to 12.72p, Debenhams, up 2.5p to 61.7p, and Mothercare, up 5.3p to 405.3p. The baby products retailer issued a gloomy trading statement on Thursday, and yesterday Seymour Pierce downgraded its rating to sell, warning that it faces "real structural competitive pressures [which are]only likely to increase with Morrison buying Kiddicare."

The pubs group Mitchells & Butlers crept forward 0.9p to 302.6p on suggestions that it should make a play for Spirit, the unit which Punch Taverns – 0.15p ahead at 77.2p – is planning to spin off. Nigel Parson, of Evolution Securities, said the demerger offers an "opportunity" for M&B to "grow earnings via acquisition or merger, find a new chief executive in the form of [Punch's] Ian Dyson and lead to the stock being re-rated."



The small-cap online gaming company 888 Holdings soared 6.75p to 50p after reports emerged that Ladbrokes – down 1.1p to 131.4p – is considering increasing its offer to more than 70p a share. The two revealed preliminary discussions were taking place last December, but updates on the progress of the talks have been scarce.

Meanwhile on the AlternativeInvestment Market, Max Petroleum powered up 1p to 17p as the explorer revealed it had found high-quality oil in one of its wells in Kazakhstan. Releasing its operational update, the firm was bullish on its outlook and predicted "a substantial increase in production and revenues in the near term".

News
people
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam