US value fund discloses 3% stake in M&S

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The Independent Online
A LEADING American value investment fund has taken a 3 per cent stake in Marks & Spencer, the beleaguered British retailer whose shares have slumped over the past year, it emerged yesterday.

M&S informed the Stock Exchange that Franklin Resources had declared its stake after passing the 3 per cent limit that triggers the need for disclosure.

Shares rose 6p or 1.6 per cent to 366.5p, in line with the surge in the FTSE-100 index yesterday.

The news comes just weeks after rumours swept the market that Warren Buffet, the famous US investor, was building up a stake in a UK company, possibly M&S. The target turned out to be Allied Domecq.

A spokeswoman for M&S said Franklin Resources had given it a list of the institutions on whose behalf it had bought shares, which included Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.

The company issued a section 212 notice that will force all the named institutions to reveal if they are buying on behalf of an institution that may be planning a bid.

But one analyst, who asked not be named, said she doubted the move was a first step towards a hostile bid. "Their investment methodology means they have seen the share price fall on the screen. It is not a surprise in as much as there has been talk of someone building up a stake."

M&S shares have dropped from a peak of 547p in the wake of a 40 per cent slump in profits and a boardroom row over succession to the post of chief executive.

Franklin Resources is a global investment management organisation based in San Mateo, California. It includes the Franklin Templeton mutual funds and institutional accounts.