Takeover fever lifts Footsie to record heights

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The Independent Online

Renewed takeover speculation and hopes that UK interest rates are at or near their peak helped the UK stock market to a record close yesterday. Prices have not seen these levels since February last year.

The FT-SE 100 index of leading stocks closed the day up 25.9 at 3,535.7, powered by pharmaceutical stocks.

The sector has been set buzzing with bid speculation following the pounds 1.7bn hostile bid from Rhone-Poulenc Rorer for Fisons and the merger of Sweden's Pharmacia and Upjohn & Co of the US, announced at the weekend. Zeneca Group, once again talked of as a possible takeover candidate, added 31p to close at 1,130p.

The market was also boosted by stories suggesting that UK electricity companies may be the target of US attention.

In the first six months of this year, pounds 14.6bn has been injected into the UK market from domestic and overseas bids, according to research by SBC Warburg. This has boosted institutional liquidity.

Sentiment was also helped yesterday when Atlantic Richfield said it was offering $248m to acquire Aran Energy, whose shares rose 23.25p to 67.5p.

On the economic front, a downward revision of second-quarter output figures to 0.5 per cent from a previous estimate of 0.7 per cent raised hopes the UK's base lending rate will not rise again this year.