Upheaval among financials fuels takeover speculation

MARKET REPORT DEREK PAIN

The stock market is on takeover tenterhooks. The flurry of heavyweight activity on the financial front is provoking intense speculation about the future of leading groups in such areas as banking and insurance.

Many of the top names were dragged into the cauldron yesterday with such blue chips as Commercial Union and General Accident leading the charge.

Prudential Corporation, which has topped Abbey National's offer for Scottish Amicable, rose 10p to 564p while Abbey slipped 17p to 765p. Lehman Brothers, put out a buy recommendation on the Pru, describing its ScotAm bid as "a knock-out offer".

It was, however, a mobile phone group which enjoyed the most spectacular run. Vodafone jumped 20p to 298.5p, a peak, as punters piled in as stories swept the market that a German bid was on its way. A price - 350p a share - was even in the frame.

Not for the first time someone, somewhere got their wires crossed. Whether it was a genuine misdialling or an old fashioned ramp is uncertain.

The story originated in the futures market with heavy trading spilling over to the cash market.

Vodafone denied the bid stories. "I can categorically confirm we have had no takeover approaches", said a spokesman. The shares ended 7p up at 285.5p.

The struggle for ScotAm is only one of the influences creating excitement in the financial sector. The big Morgan Stanley/Dean Witter deal in the US has helped highlight just how fiercely the winds of change are whistling through the once cosy and staid corridors of the financial industry.

The rush to demutalise and the competition in the banking sector, with superstores prepared to challenge the high street clearers, have also drawn attention to the financial upheaval; so has the well signalled continental hunt for a fund management group with Dutch and German predators on the prowl.

CU rose 23p to 718p and GenAcc 24p to 821p. Insurers have in recent years been seen as fodder for continental invaders but after the Royal Insurance/Sun Alliance defensive get together there are suspicions CU and GenAcc could too feel the urge to merge.

BAT Industries, GRE and Legal & General were caught up in the speculation; so was Mercury Asset Management.

The top performing blue chip, however, was not under the takeover whip. Lasmo, the oil group, gushed 11p to 262.5p following a US presentation by Anadarko, one of its partners in an Algerian oil venture. Merrill Lynch added to the fun by joining others on a 300p target for the shares.

British Petroleum was ruffled by rumours it will be dragged into Labour's "windfall" tax; the shares fell 6.5p to 741.5p.

Bass was hit by a sobering profits warning, down 31.5p at 821p. Imperial Chemical Industries' dull profits left the shares off 22p at 742.5p and BT's figures lowered the shares 5.5p to 438.5p.

Overall, the market experienced another lacklustre session with Footsie closing 15.6 points down at 4,265.9. The supporting FTSE 250 index also gave ground.

Sotherby's, the auctioneer, felt the impact of an alleged art smuggling scam, falling 47.5p to 985p. Williams Holdings, the industrial group, added 1p to 327p as ABN Amro Hoare Govett made positive noises. It sees scope for a 20 per cent outperformance as cash realised from disposals is reinvested. RTZ, the miner, enjoyed rumoured support from UBS, gaining 18.5p to 901p.

Chelsea Village was at it again, placing shares. Two more players have taken shares in a placing. In a series of placings the club has now tapped the market for pounds 6.4m. The shares held at 166.5p.

Westmount, with oil interests around the Falkland Islands, jumped 12p to 84.5p and British Borneo Petroleum Syndicate was back to winning ways with a 29.5p gain to 1,333.5p.

PhoneLink, on-line business information services, rose 9.5p to 57p after launching Electronic Market, a joint venture with the Scottish Widows financial group. The venture offers a package using e-mail and deskmail technology. Wedderburn, a property group, gained 4.75p to 18p after disclosing it was in talks which could lead to "substantial" deal.

Paramount, the struggling pubs chain, held at 42.5p. Nomura, the Japanese investment house which is involved in two unquoted pub companies, has acquired 29.05 per cent of the convertibles rights issue which achieved only a modest take-up from shareholders. It already has 9.7 per cent of the ordinary shares.

Taking Stock

rPGA European Tours, a golfing group, edged ahead to 6.5p in busy trading. It recently failed to buy Clubpartners International but did take on one of its courses. Now there is talk PGA has another deal up its sleeve.

rMountcashel, an investment business born out of the old Explaura quarrier, jumped 12p to 112p. It is run by Oliver Vaughan, the former disco entrepreneur. The company concentrates on investing in small businesses and one which has attracted its attention is Shield Diagnostic which enjoyed a spectacular run this week.

rXavier Computer, holding at 11p, is heading for profits of pounds 600,000 this year and pounds 1.1m next, say stockbroker Wise Speke. It believes the shares are attractively rated for an "emerging growth company".

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Reach Volunteering: Trustee – PR& Marketing, Social Care, Commercial skills

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Age Concern Slough a...

Reach Volunteering: Charity Treasurer

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Crossroads Care is s...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000: SThree: We consistently strive to be ...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible