Market Report: Nerves rise as clock ticks on Afren

A quiet optimism reigned over the blue-chip index yesterday

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The Independent Online

The longer the clock ticks for Afren, the more nervous investors are getting.

The troubled African and Middle Eastern oil explorer announced last month that it had received a “highly preliminary” approach from Nigeria’s Seplat about a potential combination. Pulses started racing last week when Seplat lined up a $1bn (£660m) financing package; many expected a deal to be announced over the weekend.

But Afren slumped 2.05p to 27.65p yesterday as it pushed back the deadline for talks to the end of the month, raising fears that Seplat, 3.5p higher at 118.75p, is playing hardball. Afren has fallen more than 40 per cent since talks were announced, hit by falling oil prices and a dud well in Kurdistan.

A quiet optimism reigned over the blue-chip index yesterday. The quiet was explained by closed markets in the US, in honour of Martin Luther King Day. The optimism came from expectations that the European Central Bank will later this week announce plans to pump billions into Europe’s economies, to revive growth. The FTSE 100 climbed 35.26 points to 6,585.53.

Dixons Carphone rallied 19p to 446.5p ahead of Wednesday’s Christmas trading update, but CMC Markets’ Jasper Lawler flagged concerns, saying: “Black Friday has been raised as an issue by John Lewis, Game Digital and Argos, so it’d be a coup for Dixons Carphone if they managed to make it work for revenues without cutting into profit margins.”

An uptick for the rouble helped Coca-Cola HBC rise 45p to 1,122p. The Greek bottling company gets around 20 per cent of its revenue from Russia.

JPMorgan’s endorsement helped Travis Perkins climb 68p to 1,852p. The bank thinks that as the second year of the building materials specialist’s five-year expansion plan wears on, results will start to show.

EnQuest rocketed 4.75p to 29.75p, following reports in the weekend press that the North Sea oil operator is planning to announce a major cost-cutting plan this week. Like most in the sector EnQuest has been hit hard by falling oil prices and needs to ensure it does not breach the terms of its bank loans.

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