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Firth Holdings, a steel group run by Sir Alan Thomas, former arms procurement chief at the Ministry of Defence, had a lively session, finishing 2.5p higher at 62.5p.

There was talk of bids, cash calls and a pounds 50m Saudi Arabian contract. All seem to be wide of the mark. A Malaysian group, SRI Inderajaya, has been share building and has around 15 per cent of the capital.

Interest could be building again in Carlisle, the former financial group now deep into property.

The shares gained 2.5p to 22p, highest for more than a year.

The group is related to entrepreneur Nigel Wray and is seen in the market as the latest in the long line of shell operations he has masterminded.